Project Marsh Fritillary part II

After editing and processing some more of the Marsh Fritillary images I thought I would include some extra images with a bit more detail about the species that I found out.
Marsh Fritillary is one of the most threatened butterflies in the UK and has suffered a severe decline in the last few decades.
Like most other butterfly species, Marsh Fritillary are sun worshippers and will choose locations that will have full sun for the most number of hours.  The individuals I photographed were on a west to south-west facing limestone grassland slope so perfect for all but the morning sun.  The sun aids the growth of the larval development so is a key aspect of this species.  Other habitats whrere they may be found on include chalk hillsides, moorland and heathland. 
Like all other species of butterfly, they have particular nectar sources for the adults and food plants for the caterpillars.  As adults, Marsh Fritillaries will nectar on a variety of plants such as knapweeds, dandelions and buttercups.   Devil’s-bit Scabious is the main larval food plant although other scabious may be used.
Marsh Frillaries emerge as adults in the middle of May.  The butterflies on the site where I was photographing them had emerged two weeks early due to the constantly high temperatures we have experienced over the whole of April.   As a consequence, some of the individuals were very small due to developing so rapidly because of the weather. 
After mating, the female will find a large Scabious leaf to lay her eggs.  What surprised me most was that the female butterfly can lay up to 600 eggs, although the average is usually around 300 eggs.  These will hatch after about 3-4 weeks, and the caterpillars will cover themselves in a protective web for them to eat the scabious.   After reading this, it was no surprise when the warden said they found 25,000 caterpillars on site!
Caterpillars will over overwinter and pupate around mid-end April ready to emerge as an adult butterfly in 2-4 weeks later in mid May.
It never ceases to amaze me reading the ecology of certain species and I love finding out new information about particular species.


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