Fritillaries: Astarte fritillary (Boloria astarte)

(Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Heliconiidae)

Profile prepared by Sarah Foltz Jordan, Sarina Jepsen, and Julia Janicki, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

The Astarte Fritillary is the largest species of the lesser fritillaries. The upperside of the wings are orange with a distinct pattern of black marks and pronounced black margins. Though its distribution ranges from far eastern Russia to Alaska to British Columbia to northern Washington and Montana, it is very uncommon in its range. The habitat of this species is arctic-alpine rock slides, windswept ridges, and scree slopes, usually south-facing and above the tree-line, at elevations of at least 2133 m. Global climate change poses a serious threat to this species; necessary actions include conducting further surveys and protecting all known and potential sites.

conservation status
Global Status (2009): G5
National Statuses: United States (N4N5); Canada (N5)
State/Province Statuses: Alaska (SNR), Montana (S2S3), Washington (S2S3), Alberta (S2), British Columbia (S5), Northwest Territories (SNR), Yukon Territory (S5)
(NatureServe 2009)
Adult: This species is the largest of the lesser fritillaries, with a wingspan of 4.2 to 5.1 cm (1.63 to 2 in.) or greater (Opler et al. 2010, Pyle 2002). The upperside of the wings are orange to pale orange with a distinct pattern of black marks and pronounced black margins. The heavy black markings, especially the heavy black border, are sometimes smudged. The hues and patterns on the ventral surface of the forewings are similar to the dorsal surface (Miller and Hammond 2001). The underside of the hindwing is rusty with clear-cut, black-edged bands of white or cream and submarginal/postmedian bands of opposing white crescents enclosing black dots, with an apricot band in between (Pyle 2002, Opler and Wright 1999). Boloria astarte is easily distinguished from other Boloria species by the large and robust size, broad and squared-off wings, and paler orange color above (Pyle 2002). Boloria astarte astarte is the only subspecies occurring in Washington, and its forewings are more squared and the middle row of the ventral hindwing is pearlier white than specimens from the far north (Pyle 2002).

Immature: Like other members in this genus, the larvae of this species have barbed spines on each segment (Christensen 1981). The pupae resemble those of the greater fritillaries (Speyeria genus) but are smaller (Christensen 1981). The eggs and pupae are difficult to find and to identify.

taxonomic status
This taxon was formerly known as Boloria tritonia astarte. Pyle (2002) raised the status of the astarte subspecies to the species level, creating Boloria astarte. According to Pelham (2008), Boloria astarte is composed of three subspecies: B. a. astarte, B. a. distincta, and B. a. tschukotkensis, only the first of which occurs in Washington (Pyle 2002). Guppy and Shepard (2001) place this species as Clossiana tritonia.
life history
A biennial species, the larvae overwinter twice (in the first and fourth instars) and in Washington the brood is synchronized such that adults only appear in even-numbered years (Pyle 2002, Neill 2001). According to Christensen (1981), larvae in this genus feed only at night. The adult flight period is mid-June to mid-August, peaking in July (Opler and Wright 1999). Males patrol for females with a fast flight close to the ground, usually near host plants (Opler et al. 2010). Adults perch on rock, but disappear into the wind at the slightest disturbance, and patience is required to get close enough for a good look (Neill 2001).
Rangewide: The distribution of this species covers most of Alaska, stretching into far eastern Russia and patchily through the western mountains of North America from Yukon and the Northwest Territories south through British Columbia and Alberta to northern Washington and Montana. Although the range is broad, it is very uncommon and may be quite rare in parts of its range (Opler et al. 2010).

Washington: Washington records are from Whatcom, Chelan, and Okanogan counties. Most Washington sightings of this species are at the auto-accessible Slate Peak (Pyle 2009, pers. comm.).

Federal Land: On federal land, this species is documented within the Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests.

Although this species is secure globally, it is quite rare in parts of its range, especially at the periphery (NatureServe 2009). Global climate change poses a serious threat to this species, as warming climatic conditions are expected to eliminate the alpine habitat from much of this species’ southern distribution in the United States (Miller and Hammond 2007). The north central Washington and northwestern Montana populations represent the southernmost range for this species, and habitat loss in this area will severely restrict the overall range of the species (Miller and Hammond 2007). Projected climate changes in this region include increased frequency and severity of seasonal flooding and droughts, reduced snowpack, and increased air temperatures (Field et al. 2007), all of which could impact this species’ habitat unfavorably.
conservation needs

Inventory: This species is thought to have a wider range than is currently documented, including unsurveyed habitat in the North Cascades (Pyle 2009, pers. comm.). Further surveys at known and potential sites are needed in order to evaluate the range, population characteristics, and conservation needs of this species. The current status of this species in Washington is not well known, as known sites have not been revisited for 16 to over 50 years and abundance estimates have not been conducted.

Protect all known and potential sites from practices that would adversely affect any aspect of this butterfly’s life-cycle. Avoid insecticide/herbicide use in or near known sites and manage grazing to reduce impacts to Saxifraga bronchialis, the larval food plant.


Christensen, J.R. 1981. A Field Guide to the Butterflies of the Pacific Northwest. The University Press of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho. 116 pp.

Field, C.B., Mortsch, L.D., Brklacich, M., Forbes, D.L., Kovacs, P., Patz, J.A., Running, S.W. and Scott, M.J. 2007. Chapter 14: North America. In: Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Parry, M.L., Canziani, O.F., Palutikof, J.P., van der Linden, P.J. and Hanson, C.E., eds.). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. Available at: (Accessed 20 July 2010).

Guppy, C.S. and J.H. Shepard. 2001. Butterflies of British Columbia. UBC Press, Vancouver, British Columbia. 414 pp.

Miller, J.C. and P.C. Hammond 2007. Butterflies and moths of Pacific Northwest forests and woodlands. Forest Health Technology Team. 234 pp.

NatureServe. 2009. “Boloria astarte.” NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Version 7.1. (2 February 2009). Data last updated: February 2009. Available at: (Accessed 1 Sept. 2010).

Neill, W. 2001. The guide to butterflies of Oregon and Washington. Westcliffe Publishers, Englewood, Colorado. 160 pp.

Opler, P.A., Lotts, K., and T. Naberhaus, coordinators. 2010. Butterflies and Moths of North America. Bozeman, MT: Big Sky Institute. Available at: (Accessed 1 Sept. 2010).

Opler, P. A. and A. B. Wright. 1999. Peterson field guide to western butterflies. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. 544 pp.

Pelham, J. 2008. A catalogue of the butterflies of the United States and Canada with a complete bibliography of the descriptive and systematic literature. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 40: 658 pp.

Pyle, R.M. 2002. The Butterflies of Cascadia. A Field Guide to all the Species of Washington, Oregon, and Surrounding Territories. Seattle Audubon Society. 420 pp.

Pyle, Robert. 2009. Personal communication with Sarah Foltz, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


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