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Butterfly taxonomy (classification) The skippers The swallowtails The whites The hairstreaks, coppers and blues. Includes the Duke of Burgundy. The nymphalids, fritillaries and browns. Includes the Monarch.
Female Holly Blue. Seaford. E. Sussex.
Wingspan
26 - 34mm
Photo © badgerbob
Holly Blue

Celastrina argiolus
Number: 61.012
B&F No.: 1580
Family:Lycaenidae (Leach, 1815)
Subfamily:Polyommatinae (Swainson, 1827)
Tribe:Polyommatini (Swainson, 1827)
Genus:Celastrina (Tutt, 1906)
Subgenus: 
Species:argiolus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Subspecies:britanna (Verity, 1919)
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  Introduction  

The Holly Blue is primarily found in the southern half of the British Isles, and is a frequent visitor to gardens. This species is renowned for fluctuating wildly in numbers, forming a predictable cycle over a few years, believed to be caused by parasitism from the wasp Listrodomus nycthemerus whose sole host is the Holly Blue. The wasp lays its eggs in Holly Blue larvae, with a single adult wasp eventually emerging from the Holly Blue pupa. In England and Wales this species is widespread and common, south of a line running from Cumberland in the west to County Durham in the east. This species is also found on the Isle of Man and throughout Ireland, but is absent from Scotland except as a scarce vagrant.

Taxonomy Notes

Fuchs (1880) described the Summer brood as f. parvipuncta and summarises that, in August specimens, the fringes of the forewing are less heavily chequered, the black dots are smaller and less numerous, and the greenish blue shimmer at the base of the hindwing underside is smaller and weaker. The definition (in German) also provides a detailed description of these (and other) features. The nominate form, f. argiolus, is generally considered to represent the Spring brood.

Celastrina argiolus ssp. argiolus

The species was first defined in Linnaeus (1758) as shown here (type locality: Europe). The nominate subspecies has not been recorded in the British Isles.

Celastrina argiolus ssp. britanna

This subspecies was first defined in Verity (1919) as shown here (type locality: Woodford, Epping Forest, Essex, England). Records from the British Isles are of this subspecies. Males of the spring and summer brood are similar in appearance, but females of the summer brood have a much broader dark band on the upperside of the forewings than those of the spring brood.

Spring Brood


Holly Blue - male - Mill Road Cemetery, Cambs - 08 May 2013
Male
Photo © NickB
Holly Blue (male), Chiddingfold Forest (1 May 2013)
Male Underside
Photo © Mark Colvin
Holly Blue female - Worthing, Sussex 17-May-2013
Female
Photo © Neil Hulme
Holly Blue - imago - Portsdown - 16-Apr-07 [Alan Thornbury]
Female Underside
Photo © Alan Thornbury

Summer Brood


Holly Blue - Shipton Bellinger - 7 Aug 2010
Male
Photo © Clive
Holly Blue - Magdalen Hill Down - 4 July 2010
Male Underside
Photo © Clive
Holly Blue (female) 2nd brood. Watlington Hill - 03-Aug-08
Female
Photo © Trev Sawyer
Holly Blue (female), St Martin's, Isles of Scilly (31 August 2012)
Female Underside
Photo © Mark Colvin

  Phenology  

There are two broods each year, although there may be only one brood in the north. Adults from overwintering pupae emerge as early as the first week of April in a typical year, with the next generation emerging at the end of July and 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.


  Habitat  

This butterfly is found in many different types of habitat, including gardens, churchyards, woodland, parks, and anywhere its foodplants and nectar sources can be found.

  Larval Foodplants  

The primary larval foodplants are Holly (Ilex spp.) and Ivy (Hedera helix). Bramble (Rubus fruticosus), Dogwoods (various) (Cornus spp.), Gorses (various) (Ulex spp.), Snowberries (various) (Symphoricarpos spp.) and Spindle (Euonymus europaeus) are also used.

  Nectar Sources  

Adults feed primarily on Bramble (Rubus fruticosus), Bugle (Ajuga reptans), Buttercups (Ranunculus spp.), Forget-me-not (Myosotis spp.), Holly (Ilex spp.), Honeydew / Sap (), Ivy (Hedera helix), Privet (Ligustrum vulgare), Thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.) and Water Mint (Mentha aquatica).

  Imago  

The adults are most easy to identify when at rest, since their undersides are distinctive among the blues found in the British Isles, with the possible exception of the Small Blue, which is much scarcer (and, as its name implies, much smaller). The male and female are distinguished by their uppersides, where the forewings of the female have broad black borders that are absent in the male. However, the adults only tend to open their wings in weak sunshine. Second brood females generally have broader black borders than first brood females.

A particular characteristic of this blue is that it will fly high off the ground, distinguishing it from other blues. In this respect, they are more similar in behaviour to a hairstreak.

Both sexes visit a variety of nectar sources such as Bramble, Holly and Forget-me-not. However, they do seem to have a preference for honeydew rather than nectar. The males will also come down to the ground to take salts and minerals from damp mud and animal waste.

Spring Brood


Holly Blue Female (Summer) - Mountstewart, Co Down, Northern Ireland 8-May-2008
Photo © Dave McCormick
Holly Blue
Photo © sahikmet
Holly Blue Female - Ballard Down, Dorset 23-May-05
Photo © Vince Massimo
23-May-2005
Holly Blue Male - Crawley, Sussex 15-April-09
Photo © Vince Massimo
15-Apr-2009
Holly Blue - Female (Egg Laying) - Mountstewart, Co. Down, Northern Ireland 31-May-2008
Photo © Dave McCormick
Holly Blue - imago - Thatcham - 29-March-09 (1)
Photo © Pete Eeles
29-Mar-2009
Holly Blue - imago - Thatcham - 29-March-09 (2)
Photo © Pete Eeles
29-Mar-2009
Holly Blue - imago - Ufton Nervet - 21-Apr-07 (1)
Photo © Pete Eeles
21-Apr-2007
Holly Blue - imago - Portsdown - 16-Apr-07 [Alan Thornbury]
Photo © Alan Thornbury
Holly Blue 2009 Clive Burrows [Clive Burrows]
Photo © Clive Burrows
Holly Blue male Walters Copse Newtown Isle of Wight -01 April 2012
Photo © marmari
01-Apr-2012
Holly Blue Female - Salisbury, Wiltshire 30-03-2012
Photo © Wurzel
Holly Blue Male, Mill Road Cemetery, Cambridge - 24th April 2013
Photo © NickB
24-Apr-2013
Holly Blue (spring brood female) Staines Middx 30th April 2013
Photo © millerd
30-Apr-2013
Holly Blue (spring brood female) Staines Middx 30th April 2013
Photo © millerd
30-Apr-2013
Holly Blue (male), Chiddingfold Forest (1 May 2013)
Photo © Mark Colvin
Holly Blue (Female), Colne Valley 03/05/2013
Photo © sahikmet
Holly Blue - female - Mill Road Cemetery, Cambs - 05 May 2013
Photo © NickB
05-May-2013
Female Holly Blue. Seaford. E. Sussex.
Photo © badgerbob
05-May-2013
Holly Blue - male - Mill Road Cemetery, Cambs - 08 May 2013
Photo © NickB
08-May-2013
Holly Blue female - Worthing, Sussex 17-May-2013
Photo © Neil Hulme
17-May-2013
Holly Blue - female - Mill Road Cemetery -  22 May 2013
Photo © NickB
Holly Blue female, Grays Gorge EWT, 10 May 2013
Photo © essexbuzzard
10-May-2013
Holly Blue male - Crawley, Sussex 13-April-2014
Photo © Vince Massimo
13-Apr-2014

Summer Brood


Holly Blue female ovipositing on Ivy flowers bud - Solihull West Midlands 11.08.2013
Photo © nfreem
11-Aug-2013
Holly Blue (female) 2nd brood. Watlington Hill - 03-Aug-08
Photo © Trev Sawyer
Holly Blue female - Solihull West Midlands 11.08.2013
Photo © nfreem
11-Aug-2013
Holly Blue (female), St Martin's, Isles of Scilly (31 August 2012)
Photo © Mark Colvin
31-Aug-2012
Holly Blue - imago - Thatcham - 22-Sep-04 (3) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
22-Sep-2004
Holly Blue - imago - Thatcham - 23-Sep-04 [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
15-Sep-2004
Holly Blue - Magdalen Hill Down - 4 July 2010
Photo © Clive
04-Jul-2010
Holly Blue - Shipton Bellinger - 7 Aug 2010
Photo © Clive
07-Aug-2010
Holly Blue ovipositing on Hare's Foot Clover, Pound Wood, 2010
Photo © NickB
05-Jun-2010
Holly Blue - imago - Stockbridge Down - 20-Jul-10 (1)
Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Jul-2010
Holly Blue, Shipton Bellinger, 19/08/2012
Photo © Pauline
19-Aug-2012
Holly Blue (female), St Martin's, Isles of Scilly (31 August 2012)
Photo © Mark Colvin
31-Aug-2012
Holly Blue - male - Shipton Bellinger - 14th - Aug - 2013
Photo © Maximus
14-Aug-2013

  Aberrations  

Description to be completed.

Click here to see a full list of aberrations for this species.

  Ovum  

The white eggs are laid singly at the base of unopened flower buds of the foodplant. Eggs laid in spring are typically laid on Holly, whereas the summer eggs are typically laid on Ivy. And so the Ivy Blue would be an equally-appropriate name for this species! In this respect, the Holly Blue is unique in the British Isles, where the different broods use different foodplants. In good years, the eggs can be relatively easy to find on the foodplant and hatch in around 2 weeks.


Holly Blue - ovum - Hartslock - 28-Aug-04
Photo © Pete Eeles
28-Aug-2004
Holly Blue - ovum - Unknown location - 2004 [REARED] [Reg Fry]
Photo © Reg Fry
Holly Blue egg on Hares Foot Clover, Pound Wood, 2010
Photo © NickB
05-Jun-2010
17.9.2012  holly blue egg
Photo © hideandseek
17-Sep-2012
17.9.2012  holly blue, hatched  egg 057
Photo © hideandseek
17-Sep-2012
18.9.2012  holly blue egg, possibly parasited 008
Photo © hideandseek
18-Sep-2012
Holly Blue - ovum - Thatcham - 15-Aug-13
Photo © Pete Eeles
15-Aug-2013
Holly Blue - ovum - Thatcham - 25-Aug-13
Photo © Pete Eeles
25-Aug-2013

  Larva  

The larva is extremely well camouflaged, and is usually a plain green colour, although some larvae may also have areas that are light pink. The larva is most-easily found by looking for damage to the developing flower buds, where it may usually be found attached to a neighbouring bud. The larva bores a hole in the side of the flower bud and scoops out the content, leaving a succession of empty flower buds, each with an access hole, in its wake. The larva has 3 moults in total.


Holly Blue - larva - Brimpton Canal - 03-Sep-04 (5)
Photo © Pete Eeles
03-Sep-2004
Holly Blue - larva - Thatcham - 01-Oct-08 (4)
Photo © Pete Eeles
01-Oct-2008
Holly Blue - larva - Thatcham - 01-Oct-08 (6)
Photo © Pete Eeles
01-Oct-2008
Holly Blue - larva - Thatcham - 01-Oct-08 (7)
Photo © Pete Eeles
01-Oct-2008
Holly Blue - larva - Thatcham - 30-Sep-08 (2)
Photo © Pete Eeles
30-Sep-2008
Holly Blue - larva - Thatcham - 30-Sep-08 (3)
Photo © Pete Eeles
30-Sep-2008
Holly Blue - larva - Thatcham - 22-Sep-10 (1)
Photo © Pete Eeles
30-Sep-2010
Holly Blue - larva - Thatcham - 22-Sep-10 (3)
Photo © Pete Eeles
30-Sep-2010
Holly Blue larva - Worthing, Sussex 16-Sept-2012
Photo © Neil Hulme
16-Sep-2012
Holly Blue Larva - Solihull 15.09.2012
Photo © nfreem
15-Sep-2012
Holly Blue Larva - Solihull 15.09.2012
Photo © nfreem
15-Sep-2012
Holly Blue - larva - Thatcham - 07-Sep-12
Photo © Pete Eeles
Holly Blue - larva - Thatcham - 26-Aug-12
Photo © Pete Eeles
Listrodomus nycthemerus - Worthing, Sussex 11-Sept-2012
Photo © Neil Hulme
11-Sep-2012
Holly Blue larva -Worthing, Sussex 10-Sept-2012
Photo © Neil Hulme
10-Sep-2012
Holly Blue - larva - Thatcham - 17-Aug-13
Photo © Pete Eeles
First instar
17-Aug-2013
Holly Blue - larva - Thatcham - 17-Aug-13-2
Photo © Pete Eeles
First instar
17-Aug-2013
Holly Blue - larva - Thatcham - 17-Aug-13-2-2
Photo © Pete Eeles
First instar
17-Aug-2013

  Pupa  

The larva leaves the foodplant to pupate on or near the ground, and turns mauve in colour prior to pupation. The larva spins a very fine silken girdle to attach itself to the chosen pupation site. Pupae from the spring generation emerge in 2 to 3 weeks, whereas those formed in late summer overwinter.


Holly Blue - pupa - Thatcham - 10-Aug-08 (8) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
08-Oct-2008
Holly Blue - pupa - Unknown location - 2004 [REARED] [Reg Fry]
Photo © Reg Fry

  Similar Species  

Common Blue

Description to be completed.

Small Blue

Description to be completed.

  Videos  

No videos are currently available for this species.

  Sites  

Click here to see the distribution of this species overlaid with specific site information. Alternatively, select one of the sites listed below.

Sites
Arnside Knott, Arthur's Seat, Aspal Close, Attenborough Nature Reserve, Banstead Woods, Bedfont Lakes Country Park LNR, Blackrock, Bohill Forest, Bovey Valley Woodlands, Bryncelyn Hall, Cork City, Cuerden Valley Park, Curraghbinny Wood, Devil's Ditch, Durlston NNR, Enniskerry Glen, Fleam Dyke, Forest Farm Meadows, Gait Barrows, Horsenden Hill, Hounslow Heath LNR, Howardian Local Nature Reserve, Latton Woods, Laughton Common Wood, Leighton Moss, Mansmead wood, Mayford Pond, Meanwood Park, Midgham Lakes, Mill Hill, Moss Field, Old Down, Basingstoke, Orton Longueville, Parc Penallta, Pulborough Brooks (RSPB), Rookery, St. Stephen's Green, Strumpshaw Fen, Sun Lane Nature Park, Thurlbear Quarrylands, Uffmoor Wood, Viking Field/LesleySears, Warton Crag, Willesley Wood

  Conservation Status  

The population trend of this delightful butterfly is one of a marked increase. It has also spread northward. It is not, therefore, considered a species of conservation concern.

UK BAP StatusDistribution TrendPopulation Trend
Not ListedStableDecrease

From The State of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland and the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) (2007 review).


  Links  

The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.

  References  

The species description provided here references the following publications:

ReferenceDetails
Fuchs (1880) Fuchs, A.: Lepidopterologische Mittheilungen aus dem unteren Rheingau. Entomologische Zeitung. 1880.
Linnaeus (1758) Linnaeus, C.: Systema Naturae. Edn.10. 1758.
Verity (1919) Verity, R.: Seasonal Polymorphism and Races of some European Grypocera. Entomologist's Record and Journal of Variation. 1919.

  Copyright © Peter Eeles 2002-2014
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