Predominantly Blue Butterflies

Where required, photos and information have been reproduced with the kind permission of Butterfly Conservation.

In each section, the MALE is shown as the top line photograh(s)...photos of the FEMALE are shown on the second line.


Common Blue

  JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
Adult                         
Larva                        

Common Blue  - Photograph by Jim Asher  

Common Blue  - Photograph by Gary Richardson    Common Blue - Photograph by Jim Asher

A small, widespread butterfly. Male has blue wings with black-brown border and thin white fringe. Female brown, similar to Brown Argus, but with blue dusting near body. Also like female Adonis and Chalkhill Blues, which have dark veins in white fringes of wing margins.

Resident

Range stable.

The Common Blue is the most widespread blue butterfly in Britain and Ireland and is found in a variety of grassy habitats.

The brightly coloured males are conspicuous but females are more secretive. The colour of the upperwings of females varies from almost completely brown in southern England to predominantly blue in western Ireland and Scotland, but the colour is variable within local populations with some striking examples.

It remains widespread but there have been local declines within its range.

Conservation status

European/world range

Occurs widely throughout Europe and in North Africa and temperate Asia. It appears to be stable in most European countries, but there have been some declines and expansions.

Foodplants

Common Bird's-foot-trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) is the main foodplant. Other plants used include: Greater Bird's-foot-trefoil (L. pedunculatus), Black Medick (Medicago lupulina), Common Resthn Bird's-foot-trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), Common Rock-rose (Helianthemum nummularium), and Horseshoe Vetch (Hippocrepis comosa).


Habitat

Three main habitats are used: lowland heathland (the most widely used); calcareous grasslands (in north Wales, Pembrokeshire, and the Isle of Portland in Dorset); and sand dunes (for example in Cornwall). It occasionally occurs in other habitats such as bogs.

In all habitats the butterfly requires short or sparse vegetation, such as recently burnt heathland, or where there are thin, eroding soils (for example old quarries and coasts). In the south of England it is less demanding and is often associated with shorter areas of wet heath dominated by Cross-leaved Heath.

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Holly Blue

  JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
Adult                         
Larva                        

Holly Blue  - Photograph by Robert Thompson    Holly Blue - Photograph by Jim Asher

A widespread butterfly often found in parks and gardens. Wings are bright blue. Females have black wing edges. Undersides pale blue with small black spots which distinguish them from Common Blue.

Resident

Range expanding in Britain.

The Holly Blue is easily identified in early spring, as it emerges well before other blue butterflies. It tends to fly high around bushes and trees, whereas other grassland blues usually stay near ground level. It is much the commonest blue found in parks and gardens where it congregates around Holly (in spring) and Ivy (in late summer).

The Holly Blue is widespread, but undergoes large fluctuations in numbers from year to year. It has expanded northwards in recent years and has colonized parts of midland and northern England.

Conservation status

European/world range

Widespread in Europe between 40B:N and 67B:N and as far east as Japan, as well as being found in North Africa and North America. Its European range is stable, although there have been recent expansions in a few European countries.

Foodplants

The larvae feed predominantly on the flower buds, berries, and terminal leaves of Holly (Ilex aquifolium) in the spring generation, and Ivy (Hedera helix) in the summer generation. The spring generation can complete larval development entirely on leaves of male Holly bushes, although female bushes are preferred. They also use a wide variety of other wild and garden plants including Spindle (Euonymus europaeus), dogwoods (Cornus spp.), snowberries (Symphoricarpos spp.), gorses (Ulex spp.), and Bramble (Rubus fruticosus).

Habitat

The Holly Blue occurs in a wide range of habitats, including hedgerows, field margins, woodland rides, gardens, and parks, including those in urban and suburban areas. In England, it often breeds in churchyards, many of which have Holly and Ivy. In Ireland, it is limited mainly to deciduous woods with Holly and, occasionally, country gardens.

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Small Blue

  JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
Adult                         
Larva                        

Small Blue - Photograph by Jim Asher

Found throughout Britain and Ireland but rare and localised. Upperwings brown with blue dusting. Undersides pales blue with row of black spots.Our smallest butterfly.

Resident

Range declining.

Our smallest resident butterfly is easily overlooked, partly because of its size and dusky colouring, but partly because it is often confined to small patches of sheltered grassland where its sole foodplant, Kidney Vetch, is found.

Males set up territories in sheltered positions, perching on tall grass or scrub. Once mated, the females disperse to lay eggs but both sexes may be found from late afternoon onwards in communal roosts, facing head down in long grass. The butterfly tends to live in small colonies and is declining in most areas.

Conservation status

European/world range

Throughout Europe from north Spain to Scandinavia, and across Asia and Mongolia. Declining in some countries of north-west Europe, but stable elsewhere.

Foodplants

The sole foodplant is Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria). The larvae live only in the flower heads where they feed on developing anthers and seed.

Habitat

The butterfly breeds in a range of dry sheltered grasslands where Kidney Vetch grows, including: chalk and limestone grassland, coastal grassland and dunes, and man-made habitats such as quarries, gravel pits on eskers, road embankments, and disused railways.

Sites are usually sheltered and contain sparse or eroding vegetation where Kidney Vetch seedlings can become established and where flowering plants are abundant. The best habitats typically contain a mosaic of short and tall vegetation and patches of light scrub.

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