Holly Blue

Celastrina argiolus

Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus) female

The male upper side is bright violet-blue with narrow dark-blue margins and chequered borders. The female upper side is usually a sky-blue with much wider dark-blue margins. Wingspan 35mm.

Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus) female

The caterpillars feed on Holly in the main, also Dogwood, Spindle, Gorse, Bell Heather, Bramble, Raspberry, Hop, and many other herbaceous plants and shrubs. Ivy is usually the second broods’ main food source. The caterpillar has a special relationship with ants, and the pupae are also attended by them.

Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus) female

It flies April to September in two broods. Found in open woods and woodland margins, hedgerows, and parks and gardens. Apart from the Long-tailed Blue, it is the only other European blue to be seen high up in the trees, mainly feeding on sap and honeydew. Seen all over Britain except Scotland, and is common and resident.

Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus) female

Photographs of female Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus) taken April 2006, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2006. Cameras used Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W1.

Small Copper

Lycaena phlaeas

I love the site of this bright and cheery butterfly. The upperside of the wings is gleaming coppery-red or orange with sooty-brown markings. Wingspan 34mm.

The caterpillar feeds on sorrels and docks.

It flies February to November in one, two, three or even four broods. It is found on heath, wasteland, and grasslands of all kinds. Common and widespread.

Photographs of Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) taken August 2007 and May 2008 in local fields, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2007 & 2008. Camera used Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W1.

Common Blue

Polyommatus icarus

I usually see these beautifully coloured butterflies in my local fields, but there are distinct differences between the males and the females. The male upper side is bright blue with a strong violet tinge and plain white borders. The female colouration is variable, ranging from rusty-brown to violet with orange submarginal markings. The fringes range from brown to white. Wingspan 35mm.

The caterpillar feeds on Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Restharrow, and a wide range of low-growing leguminous plants. The caterpillars are milked by ants for their honeydew secretions in return for their care and protection from predation.

It flies April to October in two or three broods. Found in rough grassy places, including roadside verges and woodland clearings. By far Britain’s most widespread blue butterfly. Common and resident.

Photographs of female Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) taken June 2007, July 2010 and July 2011 in local field, Staffordshire. Male taken August 2015, Daddyhole Plain, Torquay, Devon. © Pete Hillman 2007, 2010, 2011. 2015. Cameras used Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W1, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38, and Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

The Colours of Summer

Photographs of male and female Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) butterfly,  taken August 2015, clifftop, Daddyhole Plain, Torquay, Devon. © Pete Hillman 2015. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Purple Hairstreak

Favonius quercus

This was the first time I had ever laid eyes on this butterfly. I was on holiday in Torquay, and was walking along the cliff tops when I spotted it flitting amongst the Fennel blooms. I was hoping to catch a photo of it with its wings open for me, but alas it would not oblige. However, I was delighted to see such a beautiful underside.

This is Britain’s commonest hairstreak, and it is mainly found in oak woodland in the south. I was lucky to have glimpsed it, for they are not seen very often as they tend to keep to the tree canopy where they feed on honeydew. The caterpillars feed mainly on oaks (Quercus) of all kinds.