Cranberry Fritillary (Boloria aquilonaris)

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2022 photographs highlighted in blue. Click on any photograph to go to an enlarged picture, or simply scroll down the page.


A Boloria species with a very limited distribution in France, its main region being northern Europe and Fennoscandia. This distribution just spills across the border into north-eastern France, with additional isolated regions, mainly in the Massif Central. It is essentially a wetland species of elevated peat bogs where its larval hostplant, Vaccinium oxycoccos (UK name: Cranberry - hence the English name) grows. It is usually found in the vicinity of light woodland and near open water.


It is a species that occurs from lowland to higher altitudes, but generally not at the high altitudes of its Boloria cousins such as Mountain Fritillary (B. napaea), Shepherd's Fritillary (B. pales) or Balkan Fritillary (B. graeca). Its habitat requirements means that it is unlikely to be confused with any other Boloria species except Titania's Fritillary (B. titania). An identification clue, should it be needed, is that the upf mark in s1 is particularly v-shaped.

Its flight period is from mid-June to August. Its limited distribution and flight period mean that it almost certainly requires a specific visit to a known location at the right time. As such, it is a species that I have only seen for the first time this year (2020) - many thanks to Philippe D for the location information. It is also said that the best time to see aquilonaris is in the early morning as they are warming up as, after that, they fly incessantly.


According to T&L, males, despite their bright colouring, have an ability to disappear in flight. This was certainly my experience with the one aquilonaris I have seen.




alt. m



having arrived at the specified location at 07.45 to find cloud cover and nothing flying, I waited for some four hours for the clouds to part just a little and the effect was astonishing as the whole area came to life. After several false alarms which turned out to be either titania or Lesser Marbled Fritillaries (Brenthis ino), a medium-sized fritillary came into view which was clearly neither of these. Having learnt from past mistakes, I remembered to get a photograph, even from distance, if only for confirmation, and then to get closer for a better photograph. The result is the image 47696 below. However, the opportunity for a better photograph never arrived. It had disappeared completely and another two hours of waiting and scouring the landscape with my trusty Papilio binoculars revealed nothing. T&L was right. But a life tick (I don't have many left to go) isn't to be sniffed at. I strongly suspect that this male, which appeared pristine, was the first to emerge and that 2020 was a "late" year.