108. Melitaea aurelia (Nickerl, 1850) / Nickerl’s fritillary / Nymphalidae – Melitaeinae
NL: steppemelitea, steppeparelmoervlinder / D : Ehrenpreis-Scheckefalter, Grasheiden-Scheckenfalter / F: mélitée des digitalis, damier aurélie
Photographs: Frits Bink ©.
Small, wing length 17 (16-19) mm. In the Benelux known from a few chalk grasslands in Luxemburg and Wallonia, in the Netherlands present from 1993 until 1996, probably as a result of an introduction (Bos et al. 2006: 290).
Butterfly is on the wing from late-May until mid-July and peaks mid-June. The species is known from sub-continental to mild continental climates, amplitude 8 to 14. Required heat sum 700°d, maximum tolerated 1800°d, correlated climate windows 22 and 35 weeks.
The species is very similar to Melitaea athalia, a woodland species, whereas Melitaea aurelia is a species of warm and dry environments and is, in the Benelux, only known from chalk grassland. This distinction makes it easier to separate the two species.
Behaviour over time
Overwintering: small larva of 5 mm in size, in small nest in the litter layer.
Reproduction: oviposition starts after about 10 days when the body contains 198 (142-254) eggs, estimated potential production 1.3 times as much.
Larval feeding periods: in summer about 30 days in the period from end-July until early-September, after diapause in spring 60 (52-75) days from early-April until end-June.
Spreading of risk: not observed.
Life cycle: egg about 18 days; larvae 46 weeks; pupa 18 (16-21) days.
Life span of adult: rather long, 3 weeks.
Photographs: Frits Bink ©.
Behaviour in space
From stay-at-home to migrant: stay-at-home, spatial requirement modest.
Finding a mate: male patrols.
Orientation in the landscape: open landscape with medium tall vegetation.
Oviposition: one batch of about 150, sometime followed by a second smaller one of about 50, on the underside of a leaf of the host.
Threats from other organisms: larvae are armoured with bristles.
Threats from the environment: larvae and adults are resistant to heat and drought.
Adult: nectar, al kind of flowers in the herb vegetation, such as knapweed (Centaurea spp).
Larva: in summer in a community nest and feeds on old leaf, in spring when it lives more solitarily on young shoots.
Plant species: Plantaginaceae, Plantago laceolata, P. media, Orobanchaceae, Melampyrum arvense, Rhinanthus minor.
Rearing experiment based on specimen from Velosnes, France: provided by Nico Elfferich.
5 September 1983: larvae which are near to diapause received.
13 September: larvae had constructed one nest between wilted leaves in the litter layer.
5 February 1984: taken indoors, a few larvae had become active.
14 February: larvae started to eat singly and basked.
15 March: larvae also nocturnal, ate in the top of the leaves.
20 March: two larvae fourth instar.
2 April: two larvae in last instar.
19 April: larvae fully grown, basked up to 29°C, at 32°C two larvae basked and three moved into shade under the leaves.
21 April: at 40°C all larvae hid in the shade.
23 April: larvae fed at high speed.
28 April: five pupae and one larva. Pupation occurred in a loose tent like Issoria lathonia.
2 May: last larva pupated.
13 May: first adult appeared, male.
16 May: second one, female.
17 May: two males emerged.
19 May: two females emerged.
20 May: pairing observed.
23 May: last pupa hatched.
3 June: oviposition: one batch of 140 eggs and a smaller one of 25 eggs.
19 June: eggs were brown in colour, most eaten by an earwig.
Table 108-1. Results of dissections
Table 108-2. Collection and observation localities
D, Lorch, 300 m, 50° 02’ 05”N – 7° 47’ 56”E; 26 May 1986 (larvae on Rhinanthus).
F, Velosnes, 179 m, 49° 30’ 09”N – 5° 27’ 27”E; 19 August 1985, 28 June 2002.
F, Vosges, Katzenkoepfle, 565m, 48° 01’ 54”N – 7° 06’ 04”E; 14 June 1984.
F, Vosges, le Zinnkoepfle, 481 m 47° 57’ 56”N – 7° 15’ 08”E; 10 July 1984.
F, Pagny-la-Blanche-Côte, 308 m, 48° 32’ 37”N – 5° 42’ 58’E; 10 July 1985, 5 July 2006.
Fig. 108-1. Melitaea aurelia, phenogram adapted from Fichefet et al. 2008: 237.
Fig. 108-2. Melitaea aurelia, habitat characteristics.
Fig. 108-3. Melitaea aurelia, climate matrix, heat-sums 700 - 1800°d.