Meadow Fritillary (Melitaea parthenoides)

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2016 photographs highlighted in green. Click on any photograph to go to an enlarged picture, or simply scroll down the page.

7546_male_Alpes-Maritimes_26Jun07 35033_male_Alpes-de-Haute-Provence_31May14 21787_male_Alpes-Maritimes_8Jul10
33209_male_Alpes-de-Haute-Provence_1Jul13 39104_male_Hautes-Pyrénées_24Jul15 39111_female_Hautes-Pyrénées_24Jul15
26103_female_Alpes-Maritimes_02Jul11 35063_female_Alpes-de-Haute-Provence_31May14 30221_female_Alpes-Maritimes_2Jul12
33188_male_Alpes-de-Haute-Provence_30Jun13 18678_male_Savoie_15Jul09 30261_female_Alpes-Maritimes_2Jul12
 
9159_female_Dordogne_14Aug07 35083_male_Alpes-de-Haute-Provence_31May14  

There is a group of fritillaries – including the Heath (M. athalia), Provençal (M. deione), False Heath (Melitaea diamina), as well as the scarcer Nickerl's (M. aurelia) and the Alpine Grisons (M. varia), which can all look very similar and are quite difficult to tell apart, especially with so many subspecies and local variants. The key differentiators for parthenoides are that the upf linear discal mark in s1b is largely oblique for the male (not necessarily the female) parthenoides c.f. athalia and varia, and the parthenoides uph discal line is missing or incomplete producing a “gap” where the black lines are usually (but not always) complete in athalia. The male is bright orange and the female is larger and a little deeper orange sometimes with some colour variation between the bands.

 

There is also a dark form of the female, as its name suggests and with a slight suffusion; to add confusion, there is also a dark form of the female varia.

The forewings of the male often seem (to me at least) to be very wide and narrow in comparison to the hindwings. The textbooks, T&L in particular, focus on differentiating parthenoides from varia, and the illustrations of the male in particular are very similar; in my experience in PACA, parthenoides and varia look quite different and neither really resemble the T&L illustrations. However, the male parthenoides from other areas of France (e.g. Dordogne) matches T&L quite well.

 

The word "Meadow" in the name is rather misleading as, although it does occur in lowland areas, it is equally at home at (very) high altitudes. Even though there are meadows at high altitudes, the name rather conjures up images of a low altitude species.

 

This species was previously known as Mellicta parthenoides. In the new European taxonomy, the erstwhile Mellicta group of fritillaries are now included in the Melitaea genus. The undersides of the Mellicta species were very similar so in some circumstances it is convenient to refer to the ex-Mellicta group.

ref sex

observations

alt. m
7546 M

classic upland male parthenoides, although nothing like the illustration in T&L. The constant orange colouring, the heavily oblique upf s1 discal mark are sure pointers, and the extended forewing shape is something that I tend to associate only with this species.

1080
35033 M a rather typically marked male, although the upf s1 discal mark is not particularly oblique. 670
21787 M

another classic male parthenoides, the s1b oblique line is a little curled at the top edge but most of it is clearly oblique. There is a slight colour contrast in the uph bands with the submarginal band being a rather yucky orange that seems to occur in parthenoides and no other ex-Mellicta species.

1800
33209 M a very typical male. Although at medium altitude, 33209 is representative of normal lowland parthenoides. 1100
39104 M a male, from the Hautes-Pyrénées. The upf s1 discal mark is almost oblique, albeit rather smudged. The uph discal area is not devoid of black markings as would be the case for classical parthenoides, but it really cannot be anything else. 1600
39111 F a rather dusky female from the Hautes-Pyrénées. The upf s1 discal mark is faintly suggestive of deione, but the absence of colour contrast of the uph bands rather rules this out. 1600
26103 F a female of the dark form of parthenoides. 1400
35063 F a female, the upper partner of a mating pair. This illustrates that the upf s1 discal mark is not always oblique in the female. 670
30221 F another female of the dark form. 1400
33188 M a male underside. The ex-Mellicta undersides are largely indistinguishable from each other and this is no exception. 1250
18678 M

a male, dining on a sheep "crotte" at high altitude in the Alpes. The heavy black uhf markings and pronounced marginal lunules tend to query parthenoides, but the unh lunules are shallow and the post-discal series of white spots are quite rounded, both of which point to parthenoides, as I understand it. I also have a photograph of the upperside which seems to confirm parthenoides.

2000
30261 F the underside of a female the dark form, roosting for the night. 1400
9159 F a female, clearly I think, based on what is visible of the body shape. The ex-Mellicta species can be very difficult to identify on the basis of undersides alone, as many of the complex unh markings are quite variable. I did see the upperside of 9159 which helps the identification. Also the unf is almost completely visible and the plain orange colouring and relative lack of black markings (especially in s2) indicates female parthenoides. 70
35083 M a male roosting for the night. This was just before it tucked its forewings down, so that the absence of shading around the unf s2 marginal lunule is clear, whereas the shading is heavy here in athalia. 670

 

7546_male_Alpes-Maritimes_26Jun07

 

35033_male_Alpes-de-Haute-Provence_31May14

 

21787_male_Alpes-Maritimes_8Jul10

 

33209_male_Alpes-de-Haute-Provence_1Jul13

 

39104_male_Hautes-Pyrénées_24Jul15

 

39111_female_Hautes-Pyrénées_24Jul15

 

26103_female_Alpes-Maritimes_02Jul11

 

35063_female_Alpes-de-Haute-Provence_31May14

 

30221_female_Alpes-Maritimes_2Jul12

 

33188_male_Alpes-de-Haute-Provence_30Jun13

 

18678_male_Savoie_15Jul09

 

30261_female_Alpes-Maritimes_2Jul12

 

9159_female_Dordogne_14Aug07

 

35083_male_Alpes-de-Haute-Provence_31May14