This species is famous for its drastic seasonal variation. Butterflies of a spring brood, forma levana Linnaeus, hatched from over-wintered pupae, are red with a black pattern and few small white spots at the fore wing apex, those of a summer brood, forma prorsa Linnaeus, are black with white bands and spots and fine yellowish reticulation. In some places a third autumn brood, forma porima, Oschenheimer, 1807, develops with intermediate characters. In a northern range and in the mountains only one brood developes, with the characters of forma levana. A very similar species, Araschnia burejana Bremer, 1861, exhibiting the same variation, exists in East Asia sympatrically to A. levana and flying 1-2 weeks later.
summer brood, wings closed
A wasting land in Zatulinskii estate, Novosibirsk, 17th July 1999. Photo: O. Kosterin.