False Heath Fritillary (Melitaea diamina)

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2021 photographs highlighted in yellow. Click on any photograph to go to an enlarged picture, or simply scroll down the page.

25614_male_Alpes-Maritimes_10Jun11 12775_male_Isère_11Jul08 22675_male_Isère_18Jul10
41389_male_Hautes-Alpes_14Jul16 44044_male_Hautes-Pyrénées_09Jul17 45394_male_Isère_8Jul18
48090_male_Hautes-Pyrénées_4Jul21 46304_male_Hautes-Pyrénées_7Jul19 03_03-10A_male_Ariège_Jun03 - subspecies vernetensis
7522_female_Alpes-Maritimes_26Jun07 30513_male_Alpes-Maritimes_4Jul12 25770_male_Alpes-de-Haute-Provence_12Jun11
 
18436_male_Isère_13Jul09 21546_female_Alpes-Maritimes_5Jul10  

A very attractive and rather variable fritillary, usually (but not always) found at altitude. It is easily recognised because the uph black/dark brown almost completely smothers the orange, reducing the orange to a series of disconnected spots mainly in the submarginal and post-discal areas. Darker specimens can look quite black in flight. It can vary in terms of size and shape, it seems to me, and can often be quite small.

The underside is characterized by the post-discal series of marks having (usually) a black spot and dark edging, although 18436 is obviously an exception.

One identification clue, that seems consistent, is that the marginal band is filled yellow which contrasts with the bands either side of it.

The subspecies vernetensis flies in the Pyrénées-Orientales and in Ariège and adjacent areas, which resembles Heath Fritillary (M. athalia) more than nominate diamina. It is not clear whether vernetensis replaces nominate diamina in these regions.

From an underside view alone, the unh yellow-filled marginal band is indicative of diamina vernetensis rather than athalia, and the black spots (rather variable in size and shape) in the unh post-discal spaces would tend to confirm diamina vernetensis, although the usually-reliable illustration in T&L shows this series with an absence of black spots.

From the upperside view, vernetensis resembles athalia quite closely and is probably undistinguishable from the general markings alone, except that the upf discal s2 mark is said (by Lafranchis) to resemble a dumbbell, but in his later Lafranchis ID book, he describes it as a club-shaped spot. I would describe as an old-fashioned key or even a fish skeleton. Either way, it is different to the athalia mark here, but the uncertainty is compounded by the illustrations in T&L of both nominate diamina and vernetensis of this mark as a smudge with almost no definition.

As such, this mark resembles, if not being identical to, the mark of nominate diamina, although even here the mark can vary from clear-cut to requiring a certain amount of imagination to see the key/skeleton.

ref sex

observations

alt. m
25614 M a typical male, quite lightly marked especially on the upf. 1400
12775 M

a VERY dark male, although the dark uph is set off by the white margins.

1120
22675 M

a quite heavily marked male, although not quite in the same league as 12775.

1120
41389 M a male, rather dusky and reddish in appearance. 1960
44044 M a male from the Hautes-Pyrénées. It is rather dusky and has very wide black borders on both wings. I am not entirely convinced that it is diamina, but of the options: diamina, athalia, or Meadow Fritillary (M. parthenoides), diamina seems least unlikely (hedging my bets with a double negative). 2070
45394 M a typical male, with very dark hindwings and rather pronounced and separated orange markings on the forewing. 1120
48090 M a male, appearing freshly-emerged judging from the pure whiteness of the margins. It was posing with forewings curled slightly downward. 1250
46304 M diamina is usually seen in small numbers, often singles, but here they were puddling in some numbers, eleven in this shot. 1600
03_03-10A M

this shot was taken in the Pyrénées and I think it must be diamina vernetensis as it matches the illustration in the Lafranchis ID (see comments above). That, in itself, would not be conclusive, given the high degree of variation of this genus, but it is supported by the characteristic upf discal s2 mark, which effects confirmation.

2070
7522 F

a female, larger and generally lighter than most males. It looks very much like a dark athalia although on balance I believe it to be diamina.

1080
30513 M a male, the colouring being rather more yellow-brown than the norm. 2000
25770 M a male underside, quite heavily marked but not abnormal by diamina standards. The discal band is quite white as is the series of submarginal lunules, contrasting nicely with the yellow marginal band. 1080
18436 M

a male, in which the unh post-discal spots are faint unfilled circles rather than the solid black dots normal of diamina. The general colouring is unusually sandy yellow over the entire surface of the unh, especially the discal series (contrast with 25770).

1120
21546 F

a female underside, the dark-filled unh post-discal lunules being typical of diamina.

1080

 

25614_male_Alpes-Maritimes_10Jun11

 

12775_male_Isère_11Jul08

 

22675_male_Isère_18Jul10

 

41389_male_Hautes-Alpes_14Jul16

 

44044_male_Hautes-Pyrénées_09Jul17

 

45394_male_Isère_8Jul18

 

48090_male_Hautes-Pyrénées_4Jul21

 

46304_male_Hautes-Pyrénées_7Jul19

 

7522_female_Alpes-Maritimes_26Jun07

 

30513_male_Alpes-Maritimes_4Jul12

 

25770_male_Alpes-de-Haute-Provence_12Jun11

 

18436_male_Isère_13Jul09

 

21546_female_Alpes-Maritimes_5Jul10