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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.
Black Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 28-Jun-13 (3) [REARED]
Wingspan
Male: 34 - 39mm
Female: 35 - 40mm
Photo © Pete Eeles
Black Hairstreak

Satyrium pruni
Number: 61.007
B&F No.: 1559
Family:Lycaenidae (Leach, 1815)
Subfamily:Theclinae (Butler, 1869)
Tribe:Eumaeini (Doubleday, 1847)
Genus:Satyrium (Scudder, 1876)
Subgenus: 
Species:pruni (Linnaeus, 1758)
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  Introduction  

The Black Hairstreak is one of our rarest butterflies and one of the most recently discovered, due to the similarity with its close cousin, the White-letter Hairstreak. This species was first discovered in the British Isles in 1828 when a Mr. Seaman, an entomological dealer, collected specimens from one of the most famous sites for this species – Monk’s Wood in Cambridgeshire. These were thought to be specimens of the White-letter Hairstreak until Edward Newman, a Victorian entomologist of note, declared them to be Black Hairstreak.

This butterfly is not a great wanderer and an entire colony will often confine itself to a single area within a wood, despite there being suitable habitat nearby. The inability to colonise new areas at a pace in balance with habitat loss may partially explain the scarcity of this species. This butterfly has a very restricted distribution that follows a line of clays between Oxfordshire in the south-west and Cambridgeshire in the north-east.

Satyrium pruni

This species was first defined in Linnaeus (1758) as shown here (type locality: Not stated).


Male
Black Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 24-Jun-13 (2) [REARED]
Male Underside
Photo © Pete Eeles
Female
Black Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 24-Jun-13 (7) [REARED]
Female Underside
Photo © Pete Eeles

  Phenology  

This butterfly has an extremely short flight period, being seen in the last 2 weeks of June and the first week of July. There is a single generation each year.


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  

Black Hairstreak colonies are typically located in small woods or nearby hedgerows, where Blackthorn, the larval foodplant grows. Wild Plum is also used occasionally. Sites are located in sheltered but sunny positions and typically have a southerly aspect to them.

  Larval Foodplants  

The primary larval foodplant is Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa). Wild Plum (Prunus domestica) is also used.

  Nectar Sources  

Adults feed primarily on Honeydew / Sap (). Bramble (Rubus fruticosus), Buttercups (Ranunculus spp.), Hogweed / Angelica (Umbelliferae) and Privet (Ligustrum vulgare) are also used.

  Imago  

The adults spend much of their time resting high up on Maple, Ash or the larval foodplant, Blackthorn, crawling over leaves and twigs, in search of aphid honeydew from which they feed – making it extremely frustrating to get a sighting of this species. However, they will come down to feed on various nectar sources, Privet and Bramble flowers being particular favourites.

When active, the butterflies are extremely difficult to follow in flight – a characteristic of all hairstreaks. To make matters worse, the Black Hairstreak is often found in the company of both White-letter and Purple Hairstreaks and distinguishing these three species in flight is almost impossible. The butterfly always settles with wings closed and regulates its temperature by positioning its wings at an appropriate angle to the sun.

When engaged in courtship, male and female whirl around each other in a tireless dance which lasts for several minutes, ultimately resulting in the pair mating.


Black Hairstreak - imago - Nr Finemere Wood - 27-Jun-05 (12)
Photo © Pete Eeles
27-Jun-2005
Black Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 25-May-08 (1) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
25-May-2008
Black Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 25-May-08 (3) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
25-May-2008
Black Hairstreak female - Whitecross Green Wood, Oxfordshire 20-June-07
Photo © Vince Massimo
20-Jun-2007
Black Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 15-Jun-10 (1) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
15-Jun-2010
Black Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 15-Jun-10 (2) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
15-Jun-2010
Black Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 17-Jun-10 (1) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jun-2010
Black Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 17-Jun-10 (2) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jun-2010
Black Hairstreak - Monks Wood, Cambridgeshire 14-June-2010
Photo © Neil Hulme
14-Jun-2010
Black Hairstreak - Monks Wood, Cambridgeshire 14-June-2010
Photo © Neil Hulme
14-Jun-2010
Black Hairstreak male - Whitecross Green Wood, Oxfordshire 20-June-07
Photo © Vince Massimo
20-Jun-2007
Black Hairstreak - Monks Wood - June 2009
Photo © Rosalyn
20-Jun-2009
Black Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 17-Jun-13 (1) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jun-2013
Black Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 23-Jun-13 (1) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
23-Jun-2013
Black Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 24-Jun-13 (2) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
24-Jun-2013
Black Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 24-Jun-13 (7) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
24-Jun-2013
Black Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 24-Jun-13 (12) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
24-Jun-2013
Black Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 28-Jun-13 (1) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
28-Jun-2013
Black Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 28-Jun-13 (3) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
28-Jun-2013
Black Hairstreak female egg laying at Bernwood Forest, Oxon. 2013
Photo © nomad
29-Jun-2013
Black Hairstreak - female - Thatcham - 30-Jun-13 (2) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
30-Jun-2013
Black Hairstreak - female - Thatcham - 30-Jun-13 (3) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
30-Jun-2013
Black Hairstreak - male - Thatcham - 30-Jun-13 (1) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
30-Jun-2013
Black Hairstreak - male - Thatcham - 30-Jun-13 (2) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
30-Jun-2013
Black Hairstreak emerging from pupa,19/05/2014, reared
Photo © Pauline
19-May-2014
Recently emerged BH, 19/05/2014, Liphook,  reared
Photo © Pauline
19-May-2014
Black Hairstreak, 19/05/2014, Liphook reared
Photo © Pauline
19-May-2014
Black Hairstreak, 19/05/2014, Liphook reared
Photo © Pauline
19-May-2014
Black Hairstreak Female - Monks Wood, Cambs - June 2014
Photo © PhiliB
Black Hairstreak, female, 30/05/2014, reared
Photo © Pauline
30-May-2014
Black Hairstreak, male and female, 30/05/2014, reared
Photo © Pauline
30-May-2014
Black Hairstreak female - M40 Compensation Area, 13-June-2014
Photo © Neil Hulme
13-Jun-2014

  Aberrations  

Description to be completed.

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

  Ovum  

Eggs are laid singly in the forks of small twigs of the foodplant, usually on a rough patch. The egg is blue-green when first laid, but gradually turns dark brown, ultimately becoming a pale grey with the onset of winter and often becomes discoloured due to algae which have formed on it. The larva is fully-formed within the egg as it passes the winter.


Black Hairstreak - ovum - Thatcham - 12-Mar-10 (2) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Mar-2010
Black Hairstreak - ovum - Thatcham - 12-Mar-10 (1) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Mar-2010
Black Hairstreak - ovum - Thatcham - 10-Mar-13 (1) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
Black Hairstreak - ovum - Thatcham - 10-Mar-13 (2) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles

  Larva  

The egg hatches in spring, without eating the eggshell, the newly-emerged larva sits on a flower bud which it proceeds to eat, making good use of its extensible neck. More-mature larvae rest on the leaves of the foodplant, eating the tenderest leaves.

Although the appearance of the larva changes as it matures, it is always well-camouflaged and always matching the flower buds or leaves on which it feeds. The larva feeds during the day and has 3 moults in total.


Black Hairstreak - larva - Thatcham - 09-May-08 (1) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
09-May-2008
Black Hairstreak - larva - Thatcham - 22-Apr-08 (2) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
22-Apr-2008
Black Hairstreak - larva - Thatcham - 22-Apr-08 (6) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
22-Apr-2008
Black Hairstreak - larva - Thatcham - 22-Apr-08 (7) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
22-Apr-2008
Black Hairstreak - larva - Unknown location - Unknown date (2) [REARED] [Reg Fry]
Photo © Reg Fry
Black Hairstreak - larva - Thatcham - 20-May-10 (1) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
20-May-2010
Black Hairstreak - larva - Thatcham - 20-May-10 (3) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
20-May-2010
Black Hairstreak - larva - Thatcham - 20-May-10 (4) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
20-May-2010
Black Hairstreak - larva - Thatcham - 20-May-10 (5) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
20-May-2010
Black Hairstreak - larva - Thatcham - 13-May-13 (1) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
Black Hairstreak - larva - Thatcham - 18-May-13 (8) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
Black Hairstreak - larva - Thatcham - 17-Jun-13 (1) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jun-2013
Black Hairstreak, 2nd instar, 30/04/2014 (Reared)
Photo © Pauline
30-Apr-2014
Black hairstreaks, 1st and 2nd instar, 30/04/2014 (Reared)
Photo © Pauline
30-Apr-2014

  Pupa  

The pupa is superbly camouflaged as a bird dropping and is quite visible to the trained eye, attached to the upper surface of a leaf or twig. The pupal stage lasts around 3 weeks.


Black Hairstreak - pupa - Thatcham - 09-May-08 (6) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
09-May-2008
Black Hairstreak - pupa - Thatcham - 09-May-08 (7) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
09-May-2008
Black Hairstreak - pupa - Thatcham - 13-May-08 (1) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
13-May-2008
Black Hairstreak - pupa - Thatcham - 13-May-08 (4) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
13-May-2008
Black Hairstreak - pupa - Brampton Wood, 12th June 2010 (aka Trev)
Photo © NickB
12-Jun-2010
Black Hairstreak - pupa - Thatcham - 31-May-10 (1) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
31-May-2010
Black Hairstreak - pupa - Thatcham - 31-May-10 (2) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
31-May-2010
Black Hairstreak - pupa - Thatcham - 31-May-10 (4) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
31-May-2010
Black Hairstreak - pupa - Thatcham - 17-Jun-13 (1) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jun-2013
Black Hairstreak - pupa - Thatcham - 21-Jun-13 (1) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
21-Jun-2013
Black Hairstreak - pupa - Thatcham - 21-Jun-13 (2) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
21-Jun-2013
Black Hairstreak - pupa - Thatcham - 21-Jun-13 (3) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
21-Jun-2013
Black Hairstreak - pupa - Thatcham - 21-Jun-13 (4) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
21-Jun-2013
Black Hairstreak - pupa - Thatcham - 21-Jun-13 (5) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
21-Jun-2013
Black Hairstreak - pupa - Thatcham - 21-Jun-13 (6) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
21-Jun-2013
Black Hairstreak - pupa - Thatcham - 21-Jun-13 (7) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
21-Jun-2013

  Similar Species  

White-letter Hairstreak

Both Black Hairstreak and White-letter Hairstreak are very local species, but do fly together on rare occasions. There are two features that distinguish these species. The first is that the Black Hairstreak has a row of distinctive black dots running along the inside of the orange band on the underside of the hindwing, that is absent in the White-letter Hairstreak. The second is that the White-letter Hairstreak has a more pronounced white line on its hindwing, forming a letter "W" from which the White-letter Hairstreak gets its name. This line is less prominent in the Black Hairstreak.


Black Hairstreak (left) and White-letter Hairstreak (right)
  Videos  

Video © John Chapple
Black Hairstreak. Bernwood Forest. Oxfordshire.

  Sites  

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

Sites
Asham Meads, Bernwood Forest, Bernwood Meadows, Brampton Wood, Finemere Wood, Glapthorne Cow Pasture, Howe Park Wood, Marston Thrift, Monk's Wood, Oxford Lane, Piddington Wood, Rushbeds Wood, Salcey Forest, Whitecross Green Wood

  Conservation Status  

The status of the Black Hairstreak is considered stable, although the future of this fragile butterfly is dependent on appropriate protection and habitat management.

UK BAP StatusDistribution TrendPopulation Trend
Species of Conservation ConcernIncreaseLarge Increase

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
Linnaeus (1758) Linnaeus, C.: Systema Naturae. Edn.10. 1758.

  Copyright © Peter Eeles 2002-2014
All rights are reserved
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