Family: Lycaenidae

Family:LycaenidaeLeach, 1815
Type Genus:LycaenaFabricius, 1807


Family: Lycaenidae

The Lycaenidae is a family comprising several thousand species, the majority of which are small in size and with a rapid flight. Many are brilliantly coloured, and this is often the result of interference effects caused by the microstructure of the wings.

Eyes may be smooth or hairy, often with a border of dense white scales. Labial palps usually protrude forward, or are slightly ascending. Antennae are half the length of the forewing or slightly shorter, with a variable but usually long club. All legs are fully functional in both sexes, although the forelegs of the male are less well developed, and smaller, than in the female. All legs have a pair of claws, with the exception of the male foreleg which has a single claw. In some genera there are spines on the tibia.

The number of veins on the forewing is generally reduced to 11 or even 10 with vein 8 and possibly vein 9 absent. The cell is narrow when compared with other families. The undersides of the wings typically differ greatly from the uppersides, often consisting of a pattern of spots. Sexual dimorphism is usually well-defined. In some genera there is a short tail at vein 2 of the hindwing. Androconial scales are usually present on upper side of male forewing.

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Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)
Photo © Timothy Freed, whose original drawing is shown in Moths and Butterflies of Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 7, Issue 1 (Emmet & Heath, 1989)

Eggs are disc-shaped and covered in a network of ribs and hollows. The larva is shaped like a woodlouse and is covered in short hair. It has a retractable neck that, in some species, is pushed forward as the larva scoops out the content of a seed pod or leaf on which it is feeding. In early instars the larva may enter a seed pod or leaf to feed. Pupae are stout and may be attached to the foodplant or other vegetation by a rudimentary silken girdle and the cremaster, but may equally be found lying free among vegetation or on, or below, the ground.

This family has developed a close associated with ants. In many species the larva has a specialised "honey gland", known as the Newcomer's gland, on the 7th abdominal segment, that is usually developed in the 2nd instar. This gland exudes a sweet cocktail of amino acids that is attractive to ants, which, in turn, offer the larva a level of protection. Ants can also be found tending to pupae and accompaning adults during their emergence. The association is most specialised in the Large Blue (Maculinea arion) where the late-instar larvae feed on ant grubs, and the pupa is formed within the ant nest.

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Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus)
Larva with ant in attendance

Photo © Peter Eeles

Silver-studded Blue (Plebejus argus)
Newly-emerged adult

Photo © Iain Leach

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Large Blue (Maculinea arion)
Larva being "milked"

Photo © Marcin Sielezniew

Large Blue (Maculinea arion)
Pupae in ant nest

Photo © Marcin Sielezniew


This family is represented by the following subfamilies:


This family is represented by the species shown below.

Small Copper male -  Kynance Cove, Cornwall 5-Sept-2014

Small Copper
Lycaena phlaeas
Photo © Neil Hulme

Large Copper - imago - Thatcham - 24-Jun-08 (25) {REARED}

Large Copper
Lycaena dispar
Photo © Pete Eeles

Scarce Copper - July 16th 2012 - Miraflores de la Sierra

Scarce Copper
Lycaena virgaureae
Photo © Nigel Kiteley

Lycaena tityrus - Sooty Copper (male) imago - Melnik, Bulgaria 29-06-11

Sooty Copper
Lycaena tityrus
Photo © Michaeljf

Purple Shot Copper male, Parc du Mercantour, Alpes-Maritimes, France, 6th July 2014

Purple-shot Copper
Lycaena alciphron
Photo © David M

Purple-Edged Copper - imago - Samoens  - 01-Jul-07 (2) [Paul Kipling]

Purple-edged Copper
Lycaena hippothoe
Photo © Paul Kipling

Brown Hairstreak, Steyning Coombe, Sussex 19-Aug-2015

Brown Hairstreak
Thecla betulae
Photo © Neil Hulme

Purple Hairstreak Female Ditchling Common 29/06/17

Purple Hairstreak
Favonius quercus
Photo © Lotus28

Gray Hairstreak male - Gainsville, Florida, USA 21-June-2010 [Andrew D. Warren]

Gray Hairstreak
Strymon melinus
Photo © Andrew D. Warren

Slate Flash - Omkar Hills, Bangalore, India 17-Sept-2006 [Goutham Ramesh]

Slate Flash
Rapala manea
Photo © Goutham Ramesh

Green Hairstreak - Heyshott Escarpment, Sussex 12-May-2015

Green Hairstreak
Callophrys rubi
Photo © Neil Hulme

White-letter-Hairstreak- 5D37256. Notts, July 2015

White-letter Hairstreak
Satyrium w-album
Photo © IainLeach

Black Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 28-Jun-13 (3) [REARED]

Black Hairstreak
Satyrium pruni
Photo © Pete Eeles

Blue-spot Hairstreak - Hautes-Alpes, France 26-June-2013

Blue Spot Hairstreak
Satyrium spini
Photo © Pete Withers

Ilex Hairstreak, Parc du Mercantour, Alpes Maritimes, France, 6th July 2014

Ilex Hairstreak
Satyrium ilicis
Photo © David M

Long-tailed Blue female - Beeding Cement Works, West Sussex 27-Sept-2013

Long-tailed Blue
Lampides boeticus
Photo © Neil Hulme

Geranium Bronze - imago - Thatcham - 15-Oct-06 (0820) [REARED]

Geranium Bronze
Cacyreus marshalli
Photo © Pete Eeles

Lang's Short-tailed Blue, female, Limassol, Cyprus, 9th July 2015

Lang's Short-tailed Blue
Leptotes pirithous
Photo © Lee Hurrell

Small Blue (m) Totternhoe Quarry, Beds; 2nd June 2010

Small Blue
Cupido minimus
Photo © millerd

Short-Tailed Blue - imago - Thatcham - 04-Sep-08 (3)

Short-tailed Blue
Cupido argiades
Photo © Pete Eeles

Holly Blue female - Hailsham, East Sussex 9-May-2015

Holly Blue
Celastrina argiolus
Photo © trevor

Large Blue female - Daneway Banks 24-June-2016

Large Blue
Maculinea arion
Photo © Neil Hulme

Male 1 - Bucharest (Romania) - May 13th 2011

Green-underside Blue
Glaucopsyche alexis
Photo © Cristian Mihai

Silver-studded Blue male - Iping Common, Sussex 28-June-2013

Silver-studded Blue
Plebejus argus
Photo © Neil Hulme

Brown Argus - Danebury Ring, Hampshire 24-May-2015

Brown Argus
Aricia agestis
Photo © Gruditch

Northern-Brown-Argus-artaxerxes-StAbbs 20 June 2011 03C3195

Northern Brown Argus
Aricia artaxerxes
Photo © IainLeach

Mazarine Blue - imago - Bunderitsa Hut, Pirin, Bulgaria - 03-Jul-07 (1014)

Mazarine Blue
Cyaniris semiargus
Photo © Pete Eeles

Common Blue male - Shadowbrook Meadows Solihull 21.05.2014

Common Blue
Polyommatus icarus
Photo © Neil Freeman

Turquoise Blue - imago - Mount Menikio, Greece - 12-Jun-09 (16)

Turquoise Blue
Polyommatus dorylas
Photo © Pete Eeles

Adonis Blue - Bonchurch Down IOW 27.05.2014

Adonis Blue
Polyommatus bellargus
Photo © Neil Freeman

Chalk Hill Blue male - Springhead, Sussex 15-July-2014

Chalk Hill Blue
Polyommatus coridon
Photo © Neil Hulme