The marsh fritillary is a striking butterfly, its chequered wings calling to mind an exquisite stained glass window.
It was once widespread across the UK, but populations have declined to the point that the insects are now confined to the western side of Britain and Ireland.
Mid-may to mid-july is usually the time to see the marsh fritillary, which tends to stick to damp grasslands dominated by tussockforming species; chalk grasslands and, in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, shorter coastal grasslands. Temporary colonies can also exist in large woodlands.
The main food plant for caterpillars is the devil’s-bit scabious, field scabious and small scabious.
Conservation work to encourage populations to increase has been underway for several year, and the best places to see the marsh fritillary in the Cotswolds include Strawberry Banks nature reserve (between Oakridge Lynch, France Lynch and Chalford), which is also a stronghold for the rugged oil beetle. This site consists of two fields surrounded by woodland and scrub. Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust reserve manager Alan Sumnall is currently working with the Butterfly Conservation’s Back from the Brink Cotswold Project to help promote populations of the marsh fritillary.