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Butterfly Conservation- Glasgow & South West Scotland Branch


Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi)

Description

This feisty little butterfly (27-34mm wingspan) has green wings that subtly change colour from brilliant emerald to turquoise-green depending on how light hits the scales of their wings. At rest the green hairstreak always keeps itís wings closed-showing itís beautiful green under-wings. Despite their fantastic colouring they are very difficult to see when at rest on vegetation. Their brown upper-wings are only visible in flight, giving the impression of a small brown hyperactive moth zipping about. The sexes are similar in appearance, with the female being slightly bigger. Males are territorial and use perches on bracken fronds or prominent branches on shrubs to launch attacks on intruding males or even other species that wander past. The eyes of the green hairstreak, like those of the small copper and common blue are surrounded by a white ring that gives them the appearance of a cute cartoon character.

Credit: Scott Shanks
Credit: Anon
Credit: Scott Shanks

Life Cycle

After emerging in late April or early May, adults make use of any good weather conditions to find mates and reproduce. The pale greenish-white eggs are laid on a variety of plant species including blaeberry, gorse, birds-foot trefoil, common rock-rose, broom, cross-leaved heath and even bramble. In Scotland, blaeberry is the preferred larval food plant. The green caterpillars have yellow-green markings when fully grown, and like other lycaenid larvae (blues, hairstreaks and coppers), are shaped a like woodlice/slaters. Only one generation is produced per year. In July after feeding on young buds and shoots the caterpillar forms a brownish pupa near the ground which is thought to produce ant-attracting pheromones. Ants then carry it underground where it overwinters safely in the temperature-regulated conditions of their nest. The ant Myrmica sabuleti is known to respond to green hairstreak pupae, but other species of ants may also be attracted.

Flight Times

The green hairstreak is one of the earliest emerged of our non-hibernating butterflies in South West Scotland. It can be found on the wing from late April to late June. Earlier emergence occurs following mild winters and warm springs. Adults live for about 2 weeks so breeding success can be sensitive to extended periods of inclement Spring weather.

Habitat & Distribution in SW Scotland

The green hairstreak has a relatively wide distribution across Britain, but data suggests that itís declining across itís range and many colonies have been lost due to habitat destruction. In South West Scotland it is found on moorland, upland forest glades and on wet heathland, often associated with birches which provide shelter and perches for the males to use while defending their territory. In open moorland, it can often be found sheltering from the wind in vegetation along stream gullies or ditches. Adults nectar at the flowers of blaeberry and other larval food plants, as well as hawkweeds and brambles.

Distribution map 2010

References

  • Futter, K., Sutcliffe, R., Welham, D., Welham, A., Rostron, A., MacKay, J., Gregory, N., McCleary, J., Tait, T., Black, J. & Kirkland, P. 2006. Butterflies of South West Scotland. Argyll Publishing. (see Atlas page)
  • Asher, J., Warren, M, Fox, R., Harding, P., Jeffcoate, G., Jeffcoate, S. 2001. The Millennium Atlas of Butterflies in Britain & Ireland. Oxford University Press.
  • Fox, R., Asher, J., Brereton, T., Roy, D., Warren, M. 2006. The State of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland. Pisces Publications.
  • Tomlinson, D. & Still, R. 2002. Britainís Butterflies. WILDGuides

Written by Scott Shanks


 
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