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Butterfly Purple Hairstreaks

Purple Hairstreak - Photo  Copyright 2005 Dean Stables
Photo: Dean Stables

UK Safari Tip:
Need help identifying butterflies? Checkout the beautifully illustrated ID chart in the Nature Shop - click here

Latin name: Quercusia quercus

Size: Wingspan up to 36mms

Distribution: Found mainly in the southern half of England, and most of Wales. Rare in the north of the UK.

Months seen: July and August

Food: Honeydew left by aphids. The caterpillars feed on oak leaves and buds.

Habitat: Purple hairstreaks are usually seen high in the canopy of mature oak trees.

Special features: The upper surfaces of the wings have an iridescent purple sheen, but you only get to see this when they are flying. At rest the wings are closed and the undersides of the wings are a silver-grey. The undersides also feature the characteristic white 'hairstreak' line, and small eye markings near the 'tails'.

The purple hairstreak lays its eggs next to developing oak buds. They remain there throughout the winter and hatch around April time to start feeding on the soft, developing oak leaves inside the buds.

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UK Safari Butterfly Section

  2006 G. Bradley. All Rights Reserved