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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.
Small Blue (m) Totternhoe Quarry, Beds; 2nd June 2010
Wingspan
18 - 27mm
Photo © millerd
Small Blue

Cupido minimus
kew-PY-doh
MI-nim-uss
Number: 61.010
B&F No.: 1569
Family:Lycaenidae (Leach, 1815)
Subfamily:Polyommatinae (Swainson, 1827)
Tribe:Polyommatini (Swainson, 1827)
Genus:Cupido (Schrank, 1801)
Subgenus:Cupido (Schrank, 1801)
Species:minimus (Fuessly, 1775)
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  Introduction  

This is our smallest resident butterfly with a wing span that can be a little as 16mm. The sexes are similar in appearance, although the male upperside is almost black with a dusting of blue scales, whereas the female is more dark brown in colour. Both sexes have an underside that is silvery-grey in colour, and not unlike that of the Holly Blue. This butterfly has a large distribition, being found from northern Scotland to the south of England, with colonies also in Wales and Ireland. However, outside of its strongholds in the south of England, colonies are often isolated pockets, typically in coastal locations. Most colonies consist of less than 30 adults, although a few colonies consist of thousands of adults. This butterfly is absent from the western and northern Scottish isles, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

Cupido minimus

This species was first defined in Fuessly (1775) as shown here (type locality: Switzerland).


Small Blue - imago - Martin Down - 22-May-09 (3)
Male
Photo © Pete Eeles
Small Blue, Male, MHD, 28/07/2014
Male Underside
Photo © Pauline
Small Blue, female, Kithurst Hill, West Sussex, 9 June 2012
Female
Photo © Colin Knight
Small Blue - imago - Martin Down - 31-May-06 (0195)
Female Underside
Photo © Pete Eeles

  Phenology  

Adults generally appear in early May in southern sites, reaching a peak at the end of May and start of June. This butterfly has a partial second generation each year, except in northern Scotland.


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  

Suitable sites for this species are those that are sheltered and contain a good amount of Kidney Vetch, together with grasses and shrubs which are used for perching and roosting. A wide variety of habitats is used, including unimproved chalk and limestone grassland, abandoned quarries, road and railway embankments and woodland rides and clearings.

  Larval Foodplants  

The primary larval foodplant is Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria).

  Nectar Sources  

Adults feed primarily on Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria) and Vetches (Vicia spp.).

  Imago  

Both sexes spend a large amount of time basking or resting. Males perch on small shrubs or grass stems which they leave when investigating passing insects or when searching out nectar sources. They are not territorial, however, and can often be found in small groups of 2 or 3. Both sexes take nectar from various flowers, with Kidney Vetch, Bird's-foot Trefoil and Horseshoe Vetch being particular favourites. Males will also take salts and minerals from damp mud, animal droppings and carrion.

Virgin females entering the perching sites are quickly mated without any elaborate courtship. Once mated, the female spends most of her time searching out suitable plants on which to lay and, once found, she lays a single egg between 2 florets on the flower head. She then rubs her abdomen over the flower head which is believed to deter other females from laying on the same plant since the larvae are cannibalistic in their first instar.


Small Blue Male - Addington, Surrey 4-June-06
Photo © Vince Massimo
04-Jun-2006
Small Blue Male - Addington, Surrey 4-June-06
Photo © Vince Massimo
04-Jun-2006
Small Blue Male - Addington, Surrey 4-June-06
Photo © Vince Massimo
04-Jun-2006
Small Blue Male - Durlston CP, Dorset 22-May-08
Photo © Vince Massimo
22-May-2008
Small Blue - imago - Martin Down - 10-May-05 (11)
Photo © Pete Eeles
10-May-2005
Small Blue - imago - Martin Down - 30-Apr-07 (3)
Photo © Pete Eeles
30-Apr-2007
Small Blue - imago - Martin Down - 31-May-06 (0195)
Photo © Pete Eeles
31-May-2006
Small Blue - imago - Martin Down - 22-May-09 (1)
Photo © Pete Eeles
22-May-2009
Small Blue - imago - Martin Down - 22-May-09 (3)
Photo © Pete Eeles
22-May-2009
Small Blue, Amberley, 18 May 2009
Photo © Neil Hulme
18-May-2009
Small Blue Female - Addington, Surrey 14-June-10
Photo © Vince Massimo
14-Jun-2010
Small Blue Female - Addington, Surrey 14-June-10
Photo © Vince Massimo
14-Jun-2010
Small Blue (m) Totternhoe Quarry, Beds; 2nd June 2010
Photo © millerd
02-Jun-2010
Small Blue, female, Kithurst Hill, West Sussex, 9 June 2012
Photo © Colin Knight
09-Jun-2012
Small Blue male - Bishops Hill Warwickshire 09.06.2012
Photo © nfreem
09-Jun-2012
Small Blue - Eyemouth, Scottish Borders - 4-June-2010
Photo © NickMorgan
Scotland
Small Blue Male - Eyemouth, Scottish Borders - 4-June-2010
Photo © NickMorgan
Scotland
Small Blue Male (with heavy blue scaling) - Addington, Surrey 1-June-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
01-Jun-2012
Small Blue male - Addington, Surrey 1-June-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
01-Jun-2012
Small Blue pair - Brighton, Sussex 8-May-2011
Photo © Neil Hulme
08-May-2011
Small Blue pair - Springhead, Sussex 21-May-2012
Photo © Neil Hulme
21-May-2012
Small Blue males - Brighton, Sussex 8-May-2011
Photo © Neil Hulme
08-May-2011
Small Blue, male, Kithurst Hill, West Sussex, 22 May 2013
Photo © Colin Knight
22-May-2013
Small Blues - Bishops Hill Warwickshire 26.05.2013
Photo © nfreem
26-May-2013
Small Blue - Bishops Hill Warwickshire 26.05.2013
Photo © nfreem
26-May-2013
Small-Blue - Dunstable May 2013 5D32830
Photo © IainLeach
Small-Blue - Dunstable May 2013 5D33016
Photo © IainLeach
Small Blue. Prestbury Hill - the masts reserve 16/6/2013
Photo © john starkey
Small Blue, Male, MHD, 28/07/2014
Photo © Pauline
28-Jul-2014
Small Blue pair (Second Brood) - MHD - 1st August - 2014
Photo © Maximus
01-Aug-2014

  Aberrations  

Description to be completed.

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

ab. obsoleta (Tutt.Brit.Butts.1896.p.161.)

= simplex Aigner.Rev.Lapek.1900.p.144.
= paucipuncta Courvoisier.Iris 1912.26.p.63.

The spots of the underside almost obsolete.


Small Blue (ab.) - Totternhoe Knolls, Bedfordshire 2nd June 2010
Photo © millerd
02-Jun-2010

ab. semiobsoleta (Tutt.Brit.Lep.1908.X.p.110.)

On the underside the spots of the hindwings reduced to vanishing point or entirely absent. The forewings normal or almost so.


Small Blue ab. -  Duncton, Sussex 13-May-2011
Photo © Neil Hulme
13-May-2011

  Ovum  

Several eggs are occasionally found on the same inflorescence, although these will generally have been laid by different females. The eggs are quite easy to find at suitable sites, and hatch in 1 to 3 weeks depending on temperature.


Small Blue - ovum - Martin Down - Unknown Date (2) [Tim Norriss]
Photo © Tim Norriss
Small Blue - ovum - Martin Down - Unknown Date [Tim Norriss]
Photo © Tim Norriss
Small Blue Ovum - Eyemouth, Scottish Borders - May 2010
Photo © NickMorgan
Small Blue - ovum - Solalex, Gryon, Switzerland - 09-Jul-11
Photo © Pete Eeles
Small Blue - ovum - Solalex, Gryon, Switzerland - 09-Jul-11-1
Photo © Pete Eeles
Small Blue - ovum - Solalex, Gryon, Switzerland - 09-Jul-11-8
Photo © Pete Eeles
Small Blue - ovum - Magdalen Hill Down - 26-Jun-12
Photo © Pete Eeles
Small Blue - ovum - Magdalen Hill Down - 26-Jun-12-1
Photo © Pete Eeles
Small Blue ovum - Found at Durdle Door, Dorset - 16.06.14
Photo © Tony Moore
18-Jun-2014

  Larva  

The newly-hatched larva is less than 1mm in length and immediately burrows into a floret where it feeds on the developing seed. As the larvae grow they start to feed outside the floret with their head buried deep inside, with their back end exposed. The larva hibernates on the ground, often under moss or in a crevice in the soil. The larvae emerge in the spring and, without feeding further, wander off to find a suitable pupation site. There are 3 moults in total.


Small Blue - larva - Stockbridge Down - 24-Jul-88 [Tim Norriss]
Photo © Tim Norriss
Small Blue larvae being attended by the ant Lasius niger, near Burnmouth Berwickshire, Scotland. 21st July, 2011.
Photo © IAC
Small Blue - larva - Magdalen Hill Down - 11-Jul-12
Photo © Pete Eeles
Small Blue - larva - Magdalen Hill Down - 15-Jul-12
Photo © Pete Eeles
Small Blue - larva - Magdalen Hill Down - 21-Jul-12
Photo © Pete Eeles
Small Blue larva - Caterham, Surrey 2-Aug-2012 L1
Photo © Vince Massimo
02-Aug-2012
Small Blue larva - Caterham, Surrey 2-Aug-2012 L1
Photo © Vince Massimo
02-Aug-2012
Small Blue larva - Caterham, Surrey 2-Aug-2012 L1
Photo © Vince Massimo
02-Aug-2012
Small Blue larva - Caterham, Surrey 2-Aug-2012 L1
Photo © Vince Massimo
02-Aug-2012
Small Blue larva - Caterham, Surrey 2-Aug-2012 L1
Photo © Vince Massimo
02-Aug-2012
Small Blue (hibernating larva) - Caterham, Surrey 13-Aug-2012 L1
Photo © Vince Massimo
13-Aug-2012
Small Blue (hibernating larva) - Caterham, Surrey 13-Aug-2012 L2
Photo © Vince Massimo
13-Aug-2012
Small Blue (hibernating larva) - Caterham, Surrey 6-March-2013 L2
Photo © Vince Massimo
06-Mar-2013
Small Blue (post-hibernation larva) - Caterham, Surrey 28-May-2013 L2
Photo © Vince Massimo
28-May-2013

  Pupa  

The pupa is attached to a grass blade, leaf, or other vegetation, where it is attached to a silk pad by a silk girdle and the cremaster. This stage lasts between 1 and 3 weeks, depending on temperature.

  Similar Species  

Holly Blue

Description to be completed.

  Videos  

Video © MrIAC67
Burnmouth Small Blue Butterflies

  Sites  

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

Sites
Ardersier, Ardley Quarry, Aston Upthorpe Downs, Ballard Down, Bishops Itchington, Black Rock, Blue Lagoon, Broadcroft Quarry Reserve, Burnmouth Coast SSSI, Carymoor Environmental Centre, Clubmen's Down, College Lake, Compton Down, Cotley Hill, Dancersend, Dean Hill (West), Dolebury Warren, Draycott Sleights, Dunnet Head, Dunstable Downs, Durlston Country Park, Epsom Downs, Farley Mount Country Park, Feshie Bridge, Fontmell Down, Frog Firle Farm, Grangelands, Greenham Common, Gwrelych Valley, Hexton Chalk Pit, Hod Hill, Hog Cliff Bottom, Holtspur Valley Reserves, Howell Hill, Hutchinsons Bank, Jerry's Hole, Kenfig Pool, Kilvey Hill, Larden Chase, Lein of Garmouth, Levin Down, Lummaton Quarry, Lydden Down, Martin Down, Maryport Harbour, Mill Hill, Mumbles Hill, North Bull Island, Old Down, Basingstoke, Old Winchester Hill, Oxwich, Perryfields Quarry, Pewley Downs, Pitstone Hill, Portland Tout Quarry, Prestbury Hill, Raven NNR, Ringstead Bay, Rosslare Harbour, Seaton Cliffs, Seven Barrows, Sewell Cutting, Sovell Down, Springhead, St Abbs Head, St Bees, St Cyrus, Stoke Camp, Strawberry Banks, Swyncombe Down, Torr Works, Totternhoe Knolls and Quarry, Townsend Quarry, Ufton Fields, Upper Sundon Quarry, Western Heights, Whiteford Burrows, Whiting Ness to Ethie Haven, Windover Hill, Winsdon Hill, Workington, Yoesden Bank

  Conservation Status  

The population trend of this dainty butterfly is considered relatively stable, whereas the distribution trend shows a distinct decline, with the butterfly completely disappearing from some areas. For example, this species is now considered extinct in Northern Ireland with the last sighting in 2001. This species is therefore considered a priority species for conservation efforts.

UK BAP StatusDistribution Trend (%)Population Trend (%)
Priority Species
Click here to access the Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) for this species.
Stable-4Increase+31

The table above shows the distribution and population trends of species regularly found in the British Isles. The distribution trend represents a comparison between data for the periods 1995-1999 and 2005-2009. The information provided is taken from the Butterfly Conservation report The State of the UK's Butterflies 2011. The UK BAP status is taken from 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
Fuessly (1775) Fuessly, J.K.: Verzeichniss Der Ihm Bekannten Schweizerischen Insekten. 1775.

  Copyright © Peter Eeles 2002-2014
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