Brown Argus

Aricia agestis (a-RISS-ee-uh a-JEST-iss)

Brown Argus - Danebury Ring, Hampshire 24-May-2015
Photo © Gruditch
 

Wingspan
25 - 31mm

Checklist Number
61.015

Family:LycaenidaeLeach, 1815
Subfamily:PolyommatinaeSwainson, 1827
Tribe:PolyommatiniSwainson, 1827
Genus:AriciaReichenbach, 1817
Subgenus:  
Species:agestis([Denis & Schiffermüller], 1775)

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Introduction

Unlike most other "blues", the Brown Argus has no blue scales on its upperside, both sexes being primarily brown in colour as its common name suggests, although the butterfly does exhibit a blue sheen when at certain angles to the light. Both sexes have beautiful orange spots on the upperside of both forewings and hindwings. This widespread species can be found south of a line between Dorset in the west and South-east Yorkshire in the east, along with colonies in Derbyshire, North Devon, East Cornwall and West Cornwall. It is also found in north and south Wales, but is absent from central Wales. This species is also absent from Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man. This species occurs in small, compact colonies, and is not a great wanderer, only travelling a couple of hundred metres, at most, from where it emerged.

Taxonomy Notes

Zeller (1847) described the summer generation of A. agestis as f. aestiva, having a deep brown-grey underside.

Aricia agestis

This species was first defined in Denis & Schiffermüller (1775) as shown here (type locality: Vienna, Austria).

Brown Argus male - Springhead Hill, Sussex 2-Aug-2013

Male
Photo © Neil Hulme

Brown Argus Male - Chaldon, Surrey 22-July-11

Male Underside
Photo © Vince Massimo

Brown Argus female - Chantry Hill, Sussex 11-May-2014

Female
Photo © Neil Hulme

Brown Argus (female), Springhead Hill (23 July 2011)

Female Underside
Photo © Mark Colvin

Photo Album ...


History

The table below shows a chronology of vernacular names attributed to this species. Any qualification of the name (e.g. male, female) is shown in brackets after the name.

YearNameReference
1704Edg'd Brown ArgusPetiver (1702-1706)
1706Brown Edg'd ArgusPetiver (1702-1706)
1775Argus BlueHarris (1775b)
1795Brown BlueLewin (1795)
1803Brown ArgusHaworth (1803)
1819Black-spot BrownSamouelle (1819)
1853Brown Argus BlueMorris (1853)

Conservation Status

Both distribution and population trends show an increase and this butterfly is not, therefore, currently a species of conservation concern.

UK BAP StatusOccurrence Change
1976-2014 (%)
Abundance Change
1976-2014 (%)
Occurrence Change
2005-2014 (%)
Abundance Change
2005-2014 (%)
Not Listed
Large Increase+115
Decrease-25
Stable+2
Decrease-11

The table above shows the occurrence (distribution) and abundance (population) trends, using information from The State of the UK's Butterflies 2015 (Fox, 2015). Any UK BAP status is taken from the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) (2007 review).

Habitat

Colonies are typically found on chalk or limestone downland where the foodplant is abundant. However, this species can also be found on heathland and in open woodland.

Distribution

 

Click here to see the distribution of this species or here to see the distribution of this species together with specific site information overlaid.

Life Cycle

This species generally has 2 broods a year in central and southern England, with only a partial second brood in north Wales and the north of England. In good years, a partial 3rd generation may appear in the south. The adults emerge first in central and southern England in early May, peaking at the end of May and beginning of June, and giving rise to a second brood that emerges at the end of July. In north Wales and northern England, the first emergence starts in early June with any second brood appearing in early August.

The chart(s) above have been correlated with the phenology plot below, taken from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. The blue line gives average counts over the full data set from 1976 to date, and the red line gives the average for the last year.

Imago

This is a warmth-loving species and, as such, is often found in sheltered areas or on south-facing slopes. When courting, the males congregate at the base of a slope where they either perch, waiting for a virgin female to fly by, or patrol the area looking for a female perched on a grass stem awaiting a mate. Mating takes place after a short flight low to the ground. When egg-laying, the female will make meandering flight close to the ground, searching out suitable foodplants on which to lay.

Like its close relative, the Common Blue, this species will roost communally on grass stems at night. In fact, the two species are sometimes found roosting together.

Adults feed primarily on Marjoram (Origanum vulgare), Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea), Thyme (Thymus polytrichus) and White Clover (Trifolium repens).

Aricia agestis

Brown Argus Female - Chaldon, Surrey 2-Aug-09

Photo © Vince Massimo
02-Aug-2009

Brown Argus Female - Chaldon, Surrey 25-July-11

Photo © Vince Massimo
25-Jul-2011

Brown Argus - Isle of Wight - 27th - May - 2016

Photo © Maximus
27-May-2016

Brown Argus - imago - Martin Down - 20-May-04

Photo © Pete Eeles

Brown Argus Pair - Ballard Down, Dorset 20-May-08

Photo © Vince Massimo
20-May-2008

Brown Argus (male & female) - Knowle, Hampshire 2.9.2015

Photo © jackz432r
02-Sep-2015

Brown Argus - Chantry Hill, Sussex 11-May-2014

Photo © Neil Hulme
11-May-2014

Brown Argus male and Adonis Blue female - mixed pairing - Bonchurch Down - 19th May 2015

Photo © Maximus
20-May-2015

Brown Argus - imago - Greenham Common - 28-Apr-11 (1)

Photo © Pete Eeles

Brown Argus, Aricia agestis

Photo © mud-puddling
One of my favourite butterflies, the Brown Argus. Early am at Kithurst Hill, West Sussex.
10-Aug-2013

Brown Argus (male & female) - Knowle, Hampshire 2.9.2015

Photo © jackz432r
02-Sep-2015

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

Photo © Gwenhwyfar
24-May-2015

Brown Argus - Martin Down - 8 Aug 2010

Photo © Clive
08-Aug-2010

Brown Argus - Cradle Valley - East Sussex - 18th May 2014

Photo © Butterflysaurus rex
18-May-2014

Brown Argus male and Adonis Blue female - mixed pairing - Bonchurch Down - 19th May 2015

Photo © Maximus
20-May-2015

Brown Argus - imago - Nr Stockbridge Down - 21-May-10 (2)

Photo © Pete Eeles
21-May-2010

Brown Argus female - Chantry Hill, Sussex 11-May-2014

Photo © Neil Hulme
11-May-2014

Brown Argus Male - Chaldon, Surrey 25-April-11

Photo © Vince Massimo
25-Apr-2011

Brown Argus, Kithurst Hill, West Sussex 20th August 2013.

Photo © mud-puddling

Brown Argus female - Chantry Hill, Sussex  26-June-2013

Photo © Neil Hulme
26-Jun-2013

Photo Album (55 photos) ...


Ovum

Eggs are laid singly, typically on the underside of a leaf of the foodplant, close to the midrib. Eggs hatch after about a week.

Brown Argus - ovum - Broughton Down - 03-Sep-89 [Tim Norriss]

Photo © Tim Norriss

Brown Argus - ovum - Magdalen Hill Down - 10-Jun-14-3

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Jun-2014

Brown Argus - ovum - Magdalen Hill Down - 10-Jun-14-4

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Jun-2014

Brown Argus - ovum - Magdalen Hill Down - 10-Jun-14

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Jun-2014

Brown Argus ovum - Somerset 23-Aug-2015

Photo © William
23-Aug-2015

Photo Album (5 photos) ...


Larva

The newly-emerged larva eats the underside of the leaf, but without breaking through the upper surface. The resulting patches are visible from above which can give away the presence of a larva underneath the leaf. More mature larvae feed more openly and are often given away by the presence of the ants that are in attendance. In the last instar, the larva develops Newcomer's glands that exude a secretion that is highly attractive to ants. The association with ants affords the larva some protection against parasites and predators. Larvae of the generation that overwinters generally do so while in their 3rd instar. The larva moults 4 times in total.

The primary larval foodplant is Common Rock-rose (Helianthemum nummularium). Common Stork's-bill (Erodium cicutarium) and Dove's-foot Crane's-bill (Geranium molle) are also used.

Brown Argus - larva - Stockbridge Down - Jul-00 [Tim Norriss]

Photo © Tim Norriss

Brown Argus - larva - Stockbridge Down - Jul-90 [Tim Norriss]

Photo © Tim Norriss

Brown Argus - larva (5th instar) - Thatcham - 26-Jun-14 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
26-Jun-2014

Brown Argus - larva (5th instar) - Thatcham - 27-Jun-14 [REARED]-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
27-Jun-2014

Brown Argus - larva (5th instar) - Thatcham - 27-Jun-14 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
27-Jun-2014

Brown Argus - larva (5th instar) - Thatcham - 29-Jun-14 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
29-Jun-2014

Photo Album (6 photos) ...


1st Instar

Description to be completed.

2nd Instar

Description to be completed.

3rd Instar

Description to be completed.

4th Instar

Description to be completed.

5th Instar

Description to be completed.

Pupa

The pupa is formed on the ground at the base of the foodplant. However, pupae are often carried away by ants and buried in a cell in the earth.

Brown Argus - pupa - Stockbridge Down - Jul-00 [REARED] [Tim Norriss]

Photo © Tim Norriss

Brown Argus - pupa - Thatcham - 09-Jul-14 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Jul-2014

Brown Argus - pupa - Thatcham - 06-Jul-14 [REARED]-7

Photo © Pete Eeles
06-Jul-2014

Brown Argus - pupa - Thatcham - 06-Jul-14 [REARED]-8

Photo © Pete Eeles
06-Jul-2014

Brown Argus - pupa - Thatcham - 06-Jul-14 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
06-Jul-2014

Photo Album (5 photos) ...


Aberrations

Description to be completed.

Click here to see the aberration descriptions and images for this species.

Similar Species

Adonis Blue

Description to be completed.

Chalk Hill Blue

Description to be completed.

Common Blue

Of the two sexes, it is the female Common Blue that causes most confusion with the Brown Argus. The blue present in a female Common Blue is highly variable, with individuals ranging from almost completely blue through to completely brown. It is this latter colouring that causes the most confusion. Even so, the Brown Argus has no blue scales, but may give off a blue sheen from the wings and the hairs found on the thorax and abdomen. Another diagnostic is that the Brown Argus normally has a prominent dark spot in the centre of the forewings.


Brown Argus (left) and female Common Blue (right)

Differentiating Brown Argus and Common Blue from their undersides is even more problematic, and we need to resort to the pattern of spots. Here we have two distinguishing features. The first is that the Common Blue has a spot on the underside of the forewing that is absent in the Brown Argus. The second is that two of the spots on the leading edge of the hindwing are relatively-close in the Brown Argus, almost forming a "figure of eight", but are more spaced apart in the Common Blue. This diagnostic is particularly useful if the underside of the forewing isn't visible.


Brown Argus (left) and Common Blue (right)

Northern Brown Argus

Although very similar in appearance, the Brown Argus and Northern Brown Argus can be separated by location in the British Isles. However, this situation may change with global warming as the Brown Argus moves further north.


Brown Argus and Northern Brown Argus distributions

Videos


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The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.

References

The species description provided here references the following publications:

ReferenceDetails
Denis & Schiffermüller (1775) Denis, J.N.C.M. and Schiffermüller, I. (1775) Systematischez Verzeichniss der Schmetterlinge der Wienergegend.
Harris (1775b) Harris, M. (1775) The English Lepidoptera: or, The Aurelian's Pocket Companion.
Haworth (1803) Haworth, A.H. (1803) Lepidoptera Britannica.
Leach (1815) Leach (1815) In Brewster: The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia.
Lewin (1795) Lewin, W. (1795) The Papilios of Great Britain.
Morris (1853) Morris, Rev.F.O. (1853) A History of British Butterflies.
Petiver (1702-1706) Petiver, J. (1702-1706) Gazophylacii naturae et artis decas prima.
Reichenbach (1817) Reichenbach, R.L. (1817) Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung.
Samouelle (1819) Samouelle, G. (1819) The Entomologist's Useful Compendium.
Swainson (1827) Swainson, W. (1827) A Sketch of the Natural Affinities of the Lepidoptera Diurna of Latreille. The Philosophical magazine : or Annals of chemistry, mathematics, astronomy, natural history and general science.
Zeller (1847) Zeller, P.C. (1847) Isis von Oken.