The Silver-bordered Fritillary

This little butterfly is known as the Silver-bordered Fritillary (Boloria selene) in North America.  It is also known as the Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary in Europe. This butterfly is usually found in open woodlands or damp grasslands, and can be identified by its orange and brown pattern on the upper side of the wing and  a row of silver โ€œpearlsโ€™  on the outer-edge of the underside of the wing. The underside of the wing also has a colorful mosaic of white, orange, and brown marking.(2) I am not sure I would have used the term “pearls” to describe the white coloration along the outer-edge of the underside of the wing, but it does have distinct white spots.

There are 30 different species of butterflies in the larger family of butterflies known as Fritillaries.  Fritillaries are further divided into the greater fritillaries and lesser fritillaries.  Silver-bordered Fritillary belongs to the lesser fritillaries group and is one of 16 different species. An interesting thing about the Silver-bordered Fritillary name is that its scientific genus name “Boloria” means brushed foot and its species name “selene” is said to reference the Greek Goddess of the moon Selene.(1,3,4)

As I was watching this butterfly move about the field, I noticed that when it landed on a flower it would go through an interesting routine with its wings.  It would hold them closed for a few seconds, then open them, then move them back and forth, then close them again.  This prompted me to wonder what was the purpose of this movement.

It turns out this wing movement may have been related to the butterfly’s need for temperature regulation.  Butterflies are cold-blooded ectothermic animals.  What this means is that they do not have an internal way to regulate their body temperature.  So they must warm themselves by obtaining heat from the environment. They do this in two ways: Basking and Shivering.(5)

Basking is the process where butterflies use the sun to warm their bodies. The butterfly will spread its wings and use them like a mini solar panel and absorb the warmth and energy from the sun.  However, some butterflies are better adapted to use the bottom of their wings for this process.  When butterflies used the bottoms of their wings to warm themselves it is called lateral basking. 

Shivering is the other process that butterflies use to regulate their temperature.  Shivering is just what it sounds like.  Butterflies will shiver, or shake, their bodies to increase their temperature.

A butterfly’s optimal temperature is between 75 and 90 degrees.(6) Therefore, it is possible for a butterfly to become too hot. In that case, they will seek out shade to cool down.

This quick video shows the butterfly in action. If you turn the sound up you can hear the birds signing in the background. I wonder if you can you identify that bird by its song?

Learning about the temperature regulation process in butterflies was something new for me this week. I had observed butterflies in action before, but never questioned the reasons behind their behavior. This personal practice of questioning has become an important part of my naturalist journey. When I move into a place of curiosity instead of assumptions, many of the mysteries of the natural world begin to reveal themselves.

Have you learned anything new about the natural world lately? Please share in the comments below.


  1. Wild Adirondacks: Silver bordered fritillary
  2. Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary
  3. USDA: Fritillary
  4. Wikipedia: Boloria
  5. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden: Butterflies warming up
  6. Wikipedia: Butterfly

21 thoughts on “The Silver-bordered Fritillary

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  1. I wish I was more observant. I’m bound to have learned lots of new things but, when I force myself to think, my mind goes blank!

    I’ve been having a lovely time this week watching a pair of blue tits taking seed from next-door’s bird feeder to feed their babies waiting in a nearby tree.

    The film is good. I’m afraid I can’t identify the singing bird, but our cockatiel is showed much interest when he heard it! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Hi Lesley. I am laughing about your cockatiel and the video. The first time I re-watched the video I thought I was just hearing the birds outside. I often think about the concept of beginner’s mind and my senses when I think about observation. I ask myself what am I seeing, what am I hearing, etc. My wildlife tracking teacher has helped me with a lot of this, and he has helped me see how quickly my mind tries to give me answers before I even know the real question. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

      1. You’re welcome, Mark. I enjoy talking about nature and wildlife. ๐Ÿ™‚
        I’ll try to remember to ask myself those questions too.

  2. Identifying bird song is hard for me, but this year I’ve tried to sort some of our local birds out by calls and songs. I know the brown-headed cowbird (sounds rather like water drops) and the mockingbird, but everything else seems to “chip” like cardinals. I read recently that sitting and listening to bird song lowers the blood pressure. Bonus!

    1. Hi Vicki, I definitely agree that identifying bird song is very challenging. I only know a few. And they ones I know, I know because I have had some sort of experience with them. For example, I can recognize the Cedar Waxwing because I remember the day that five of them were in our yard and the noise they made. If I don’t have that connection, they all sound very similar. I think learning bird song is a acquired skill. Thanks for adding your comment!

  3. I remember going to the local butterfly garden. I got a field guild that they handed out, and had fun identifying the butterflies. These particular butterflies, I see a lot.

    1. I guide that is tailored to your area is super helpful! They are pretty cool butterflies. However, I had a hard time getting a good look at the underside of their wings.

  4. Not sure if this variety of fritillary has been here but at least one has. Interesting about their wings, I just assumed they were newly hatched and trying out the wings. Nice to know what’s going on.

    Something I learned yesterday at the labyrinth with the blooming clusters of sedum: the smell is not good from them. As I got closer and saw the many insects, they were mostly beetles and small green flies. No butterflies or bees in sight. It reminds me of a beautiful euonymus shrub I had in my yard at my old place. When it bloomed it was covered in flies! Surprised and disgusted me every time!

    1. That is interesting! So I would assume that the sedum somehow benefits more from flies than bees. That sounds like a research project to me!

  5. I’m in awe of anyone who can identify butterflies. The only two I’m confident about identifying are the Monarch and Swallowtail. So thank you for offering this identification. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Wow wonderful information, I didn’t know either! That video is very good and what a lovely butterfly. I cannot identify the birds. I only know how crows and pigeons sound!

    Funny you post this, I chased a red and black moth today, couldn’t get a great photo ๐Ÿ˜ Will post it soon. It is a Cinnabar Moth. I have also seen a brown butterfly which I think is a Ringlet, I’ll post it soon too.

    I am only shooting with my phone though.

    1. Hi Ananka! I can’t wait to see your photos! All my pictures are with e phone also. It works fine for close up and still shots. It definitely isn’t good for birds.

    1. Hi Sherry, the butterfly club must be a lot of fun. I am also a beginner at identifying and learning about butterflies. They are pretty amazing.

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