Euphydryas aurinia | Marsh Fritillary | Fritileán réisc



Conservation status

Future Prospects
 Overall  Assessment of Conservation Status
Overall Trend in Conservation Status
Source: NPWS 2013.

IUCN Conservation Status
Ireland (1)
Vulnerable [A2c]
Europe (2)
Least Concern
Global (3)
Not evaluated
Sources: (1) Regan, E.C. et al 2010; (2) van Swaay, C. et al 2010; (3) The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2.

Legal status

Protected by the following legal instruments:

  • Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC), Annex II.
  • Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention) Appendix II
  • Wildlife (N.I.) Order of 1985.

Native status


Species Biology


Key identification features include:

  • Medium size, wingspan: 35 - 50 mm
  • Orange and cream panelled pattern on upperside of wings
  • Prominent broad orange band at margin of upperside hindwing, black dots at the centre of each square patch
  • Jagged cream and orange bands on underside of hindwing


Broader habitat usage in Ireland compared to Britain, found on: wet grasslands, coastal grey dunes, machair and cutover bog. Roosting adults may sometimes be found on flowerheads. They bask and feed on various flowers, but especially on Meadow Thistle (Cirsium dissectum), and to a lesser extent Tormentil (Potentilla erecta) (Bond & Gittings, 2008).

Flight period

Univoltine:  from May to July.

Life cycle

  • Mating and egg laying take place soon after emergence of adults from mid-May.
  • Eggs laid on Devil's-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis).
  • Eggs hatch after about 30 days, but may take less or quite a bit longer depending on weather.
  • Larvae construct a fraternal web and move en masse between plants as they are consumed.
  • After the third moult, as autumn approaches the larval web will hibernate.
  • Larvae become active from February, and after another two moults begin to pupate from mid-April to early May.
  • Pupation lasts 2-4 weeks before next generation of adults emerge.

Sources: Harding, J.M. 2008; Hickin, N 1992.

Food plants

Specialist, the larvae primarily feed on Devil's-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis).

Devi's-bit Scabious is widespread and abundant and occurs across a range of open habitats including but not limited to;

  • Wet grassland (GS4)
  • Cutover bog (PB4)
  • Wet heath (HH3)
  • Rich fen and flush (PF1)
  •  Dry calcareous and neutral grassland (GS1)
  • Dry calcareous heath (HH2 )
  • Poor fen and flush (PF2 )
  • Dry meadows and grassy verges (GS2)
  • Transition mire & quaking bog (PF3)
  • Dry-humid acid grassland (GS3)
  • Fixed dunes (CD3)
  • Machair (CD6)
  • Upland Blanket Bog (PB2)
  • Dune slacks (CD5)
Source: NPWS 2013.

Threats faced

Agricultural intensification
Anthropogenic reduction of habitat connectivity
Species composition change (succession)K02.01
Peat extraction
Missing or wrongly directed conservation measuresG05.07Low
Forest planting on open groundB01
Abandonment of pastoral systems, lack of grazing

Source: NPWS 2013.

Conservation actions

In the Article 17 Habitats Directive reporting for the period 2007-2012 Conservation Measures listed as in place or in the process of being implemented for this species in Ireland included;

  • Continued legal protection of the species and its habitats inside and outside of Natura 2000.
  • It is indicated that Conservation Measures are needed but have not been implemented during the reporting period, but these are not specifically outlined in the Article 17 Habitats Directive reporting document for the species.
  • In the assessment of Habitat for the species in the Article 17 Habitats Directive reporting document it is stated that 'As the Marsh Fritillary occupies the landscape in a metapopulation structure there is a need for a network of sites within a small area to allow the species to survive in the long-term.'

Source: NPWS 2013.

In the 2010 IUCN European regional assessment the following Conservation Actions are suggested;

  • In countries where the species is declining, important habitats should be protected and managed.
  • The effects of conservation actions should be monitored by a Butterfly Monitoring Scheme.
Source: van Swaay, C. et al 2010.

Flowers visited

Generalist, adult nectar sources include: Bugle (Ajuga reptans), Buttercups (Ranunculus spp.), Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis), Dandelion (Taraxacum agg.), Hawkweeds (Hieracium/Hypochoeris), Knapweeds (Centaurea spp.), Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi), Thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.) and Tormentil (Potentilla erecta).


World distribution(GBIF)

A widespread species, occurring from the Iberian Peninsula through most of Europe and across temperate Asia eastwards to Korea; found in most European countries (Kudrna et al., 2011).

Temporal change

Records submitted to Data Centre in 2022

The following map is interactive. If you would prefer to view it full screen then click here.

How can you help

The National Biodiversity Data Centre is trying to improve our knowledge on the distribution of Marsh Fritillary  in Ireland. Should you observe the species, please submit your sighting to add to the database. Detailed observations will assist us in gaining a better insight into where the species are most abundant in Ireland and we might also be able to detect regional variations. Please submit any sightings and photographs at:

Further information

For further information contact



Bond, K.G.M. and Gittings, T. 2008. Database of Irish Lepidoptera. 1 - Macrohabitats, microsites and traits of Noctuidae and butterflies. Irish Wildlife Manuals, No. 35. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Dublin, Ireland.

Fossitt, J.A. A Guide to Habitats in Ireland. The Heritage Council. 2001

Harding, J.M. (2008), Discovering Irish Butterflies and their Habitats. Jesmond Harding.

Kudrna, O., Harpke, A., Lux, K., Pennersoft, J., Schweiger, O., Settele, J. & Wiemers, M. (2011) Distribution atlas of butterflies in Europe. Gesellschaft für Schmetterlingsschutz, Halle, Germany.

NPWS (2013) The Status of EU Protected Habitats and Species in Ireland.  Species Assessments Volume 3. Version 1.0. Unpublished Report, National Parks & Wildlife Services. Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Dublin, Ireland.

Regan, E.C., Nelson, B., Aldwell, B., Bertrand, C., Bond, K., Harding, J., Nash, D., Nixon, D., & Wilson, C.J. (2010) Ireland Red List No. 4 – Butterflies. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Ireland.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <>. Downloaded on 25 September 2014

van Swaay, C., Wynhoff, I., Verovnik, R., Wiemers, M., López Munguira, M., Maes, D., Sasic, M., Verstrael, T., Warren, M. & Settele, J. 2010. Euphydryas aurinia. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <>. Downloaded on 03 November 2014.