Purple Hairstreak

Favonius quercus (fav-OH-nee-us KWARE-cuss)

Purple Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 19-Jun-11 (1)
Photo © Pete Eeles
 

Wingspan
Male: 33 - 40mm
Female: 31 - 38mm

Checklist Number
61.004

Family:LycaenidaeLeach, 1815
Subfamily:TheclinaeButler, 1869
Tribe:ThecliniSwainson, 1831
Genus:FavoniusSibatani & Ito, 1942
Subgenus:  
Species:quercus(Linnaeus, 1758)

< Previous SpeciesNext Species >

Introduction

The Purple Hairstreak is our commonest hairstreak, and may be found in oak woodland throughout southern Britain, and more locally elsewhere. It is often difficult to locate, due to its habit of flying in the tree canopy, where it feeds on honeydew. However, the adults are occasionally seen basking at lower levels, on various small trees, shrubs and bracken. This butterfly is found across southern England and Wales, with scattered colonies further north. It is also found in parts of Ireland, mainly between Wicklow and South Kerry. This species is not found in the Isle of Man.

Favonius quercus

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

Purple Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 14-Jun-07 (1) {REARED}

Male
Photo © Pete Eeles

Purple Hairstreak Male - Botany Bay/Oaken Wood, Sussex 28-June-09

Male Underside
Photo © Vince Massimo

Purple Hairstreak female - Broxbourne Wood, Hertfordshire, 30 June 2011

Female
Photo © Pawpawsaurus

Purple Hairstreak female - Broxbourne Wood, Hertfordshire, 30 June 2011

Female Underside
Photo © Pawpawsaurus

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
1702Mr. Ray's Purple StreakPetiver (1702-1706)
1717Mr. Ray's Blue Hairstreak (male)Petiver (1717)
1717Our blue Hairstreak (female)Petiver (1717)
1720Purple Hair-streakAlbin (1720)

Conservation Status

The status of this species is relatively-stable and numbers have even increased in some areas. As such, it is not 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
Decrease-30
Large Decrease-54
Decrease-15
Decrease-10

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

This butterfly is primarily found in woodland containing oak trees, the foodplant of the larva. However, the species can be found in any location where oaks occur, including lanes, parks, and other urban areas.

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

Adults emerge from the last week of June, through July and into August, with adults still being found into September. There is a peak at the end of July and early August, or later in Scotland. There is one brood 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.

Imago

The Purple Hairstreak is one of the delights of summer, seen in oak woodland across the south of England, and more locally in other areas. It is particularly active in bright sunshine and, in the right woodland in early evening, this species can be seen in large numbers flitting around the tree canopy, and from tree to tree. Groups of several individuals chasing one another are not an uncommon sight. The butterfly primarily feeds on honeydew, but will occasionally feed from nectar sources such as Bramble.

Adults feed primarily on Honeydew / Sap. Bramble (Rubus fruticosus), Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum) and Hogweed / Angelica (Umbelliferae) are also used.

Favonius quercus

Purple Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 14-Jun-07 (1) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles
14-Jun-2007

Purple Hairstreak female - Broxbourne Wood, Hertfordshire, 30 June 2011

Photo © Pawpawsaurus
30-Jun-2011

Purple Hairstreak female - Broxbourne Wood, Hertfordshire, 16 July 2013

Photo © Pawpawsaurus
16-Jul-2013

Purple Hairstreak, Browndown, 06/07/2016

Photo © Pauline
06-Jul-2016

Purple Hairstreak Male - Botany Bay/Oaken Wood, Sussex 28-June-09

Photo © Vince Massimo
28-Jun-2009

Purple Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 14-Jun-10 (2) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles
14-Jun-2010

Purple Hairstreak female - Broxbourne Wood, Hertfordshire, 30 June 2011

Photo © Pawpawsaurus
30-Jun-2011

Purple Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 26-May-04 (6) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
28-May-2004

Purple Hairstreak (f) 19.7.12  East Sussex. Downland boy

Photo © downland boy
19-Jul-2012

Purple Hairstreak emerging, Male, 6/05/2014,  Liphook, (reared)

Photo © Pauline
06-May-2014

Purple Hairstreak, Male, 5/05/2014,  Liphook, (reared)

Photo © Pauline
05-May-2014

Purple Hairstreak. East Blean Woods, Kent. 26/6/16.

Photo © Testudo Man
Purple Hairstreak. East Blean Woods, Kent. 26/6/16.

Purple Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 23-Jun-11 (1)

Photo © Pete Eeles

Purple Hairstreak emerging, Male, 6/05/2014,  Liphook, (reared)

Photo © Pauline
06-May-2014

Purple Hairstreak female - Arnside Knott, Cumbria 24-July-2011

Photo © Neil Hulme
24-Jul-2011

Purple Hairstreak (mating; female on left) 10.7.11  East Sussex. Downland boy

Photo © downland boy
10-Jul-2011

Purple Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 17-Jun-10 (1) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jun-2010

Purple Hairstreak, Male, 11/05/2014,  Liphook, (reared)

Photo © Pauline
11-May-2014

Purple Hairstreak female - 20 June 2011 - Fermyn Woods, East Northants

Photo © digipixel

Purple Hairstreak underside, Botany Bay, 28 June 2009

Photo © Neil Hulme
28-Jun-2009

Photo Album (36 photos) ...


Ovum

Eggs are laid singly (or less commonly, in groups of 2 or more), usually at the base of a plump oak bud, or cluster of buds, but can also be found on an adjoining twig and at various heights. They are laid on branches that are sheltered and that receive full sunshine - such branches are therefore on the southern side of the tree. There also appears to be a preference for solitary trees, such as those found at the edges of woods, or those that form part of a hedgerow.

Eggs are also most-often found on relatively mature trees (since these have the plumpest buds) on branches that are twisted and gnarled. Eggs are relatively easy to find in suitable locations during the winter months before the oak buds burst.

The eggs are bun-shaped but, on closer examination, more closely resemble a sea urchin. Each egg is white when first laid but can become discoloured when exposed to the elements, giving the appearance of being dark grey. The larva is fully-developed within the egg after around 3 weeks, but does not emerge until the following spring.

Purple Hairstreak ova

Photo © Tony Moore
11-Sep-2013

Purple Hairstreak ovum - Hampshire 1-Feb-2014

Photo © Maximus
01-Feb-2014

Purple Hairstreak - ovum - Thatcham - 09-Dec-15 [REARED]-4

Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Dec-2015

Purple Hairstreak ovum - Hampshire 1-Feb-2014

Photo © Maximus
01-Feb-2014

Purple Hairstreak - ovum - Thatcham - 25-Mar-05 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
25-Mar-2005

Purple Hairstreak - ovum - Thatcham - 09-Dec-15 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Dec-2015

Purple Hairstreak ovum - Alice Holt Forest 8-Feb-2014

Photo © Maximus
08-Feb-2014

Purple Hairstreak - ovum - Thatcham - 09-Dec-15 [REARED]-3

Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Dec-2015

Purple Hairstreak - ovum - Thatcham - 12-Mar-10 (3)

Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Mar-2010

Purple Hairstreak ovum - Alice Holt Forest 8-Feb-2014

Photo © Maximus
08-Feb-2014

Purple Hairstreak ovum - Stafford Castle 15-Nov-2011

Photo © Tony Moore
15-Nov-2011

Purple Hairstreak - ovum - Thatcham - 17-Mar-07 (1001) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Mar-2007

Purple Hairstreak ovum - start of hatching - Surrey - 15th - March - 2014 - (Reared)

Photo © Maximus
15-Mar-2014

Parasitised Purple Hairstreak ovum - Alice Holt Forest 8-Feb-2014

Photo © Maximus
08-Feb-2014

Purple Hairstreak - ovum - Thatcham - 16-Dec-13

Photo © Pete Eeles
16-Dec-2013

Purple Hairstreak - ovum - Thatcham - 12-Mar-10 (1)

Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Mar-2010

Parasitised Purple Hairstreak ovum - Alice Holt Forest 8th-Feb-2014

Photo © Maximus
08-Feb-2014

Purple Hairstreak - ovum - Thatcham - 12-Mar-10 (2)

Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Mar-2010

Purple Hairstreak ovum - start of hatching - Surrey - 15th - March - 2014 - (Reared)

Photo © Maximus
15-Mar-2014

Purple Hairstreak Ovum - West Somerset - 15/02/14

Photo © William
15-Feb-2014

Photo Album (23 photos) ...


Larva

The larva eats part of its eggshell on hatching before burrowing into a developing bud where it feeds fully-concealed. After the first moult, the larva lives outside the bud, under a loosely-spun silk web. This web catches all sorts of debris and acts as camouflage as a result. The larva is extremely well-camouflaged and, in later stages when the larva lies under an oak bud, is very difficult to locate. Some have suggested that the best method to find larvae is by feel, rather than sight! The larva rests during the day, feeding only at night and there are 3 moults in total.

The primary larval foodplants are Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur), Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea) and Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris). Evergreen Oak (Quercus ilex) is also used.

Purple Hairstreak - larva - Thatcham - 21-May-06 (0134) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
21-May-2006

Purple Hairstreak larva entering leafbud - Surrey 20-Mar-2014 (reared)

Photo © Maximus
20-Mar-2014

Purple Hairstreak larva - 12 days old - Surrey - 28th - March - 2014 - (Reared)

Photo © Maximus
28-Mar-2014

Purple Hairstreak larva - freshly hatched - Surrey - 3rd - April - 2014 - (Reared)

Photo © Maximus
03-Apr-2014

Purple Hairstreak - larva - Thatcham - 02-May-14 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
02-May-2014

Purple Hairstreak - larva - Thatcham - 28-Apr-10 (1) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles
28-Apr-2010

PH larva (reared) Hampshire 03/04/2014 8 days old

Photo © Pauline
03-Apr-2014

Purple Hairstreak larvae - 12 days old - Surrey - 28th - March - 2014 - (Reared)

Photo © Maximus
28-Mar-2014

Purple Hairstreak larva eating moulted skin - Surrey - 25th April - 2015 (REARED)

Photo © Maximus
25-Apr-2015

Purple Hairstreak larva(24 days old) - Surrey - 9th - April - 2014 (Reared)

Photo © Maximus
09-Apr-2014

Purple Hairstreak larva - freshly hatched - Surrey - 2nd - April - 2014 - (Reared)

Photo © Maximus
02-Apr-2014

Purple Hairstreak - larva - Thatcham - 22-Apr-04 (2) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
22-Apr-2004

Purple Hairstreak larvae (7 days old) - Surrey - 23rd - March - 2014 (Reared)

Photo © Maximus
23-Mar-2014

Purple Hairstreak - larva - Thatcham - 15-May-05 (4) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
16-May-2005

Purple Hairstreak - larva - Thatcham - 01-May-10 (1) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles
01-May-2010

Purple Hairstreak larva (moulted) - 14 days old - Surrey - 30th - March - 2014 - (Reared)

Photo © Maximus
30-Mar-2014

Purple Hairstreak larva - freshly hatched - Surrey - 3rd - April - 2014 - (Reared)

Photo © Maximus
03-Apr-2014

Purple Hairstreak larva 2nd instar - Surrey - 27th April - 2015 (REARED)

Photo © Maximus
27-Apr-2015

Purple Hairstreak - larva - Thatcham - 15-May-05 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
16-May-2005

Purple Hairstreak - larva - Thatcham - 28-Apr-07 (1) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles
28-Apr-2007

Photo Album (25 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.

Pupa

The pupa is generally formed in a loose cocoon just under the surface of soil, moss or leaf litter, or possibly in the crevice of a tree. It has also been found in ants' nests. This stage lasts around 4 weeks.

Purple Hairstreak - pupa - Thatcham - 09-Jun-06 (0239) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Jun-2006

Purple Hairstreak - pupa - Thatcham - 31-May-05 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
31-May-2005

Purple Hairstreak pupa (reared) Henfield, Sussex 1-June-12 [Richard Roebuck]

Photo © Richard Roebuck
01-Jun-2012

Purple Hairstreak pupa (reared) - Henfield, Sussex  01-June-12 [Richard Roebuck]

Photo © Richard Roebuck
01-Jun-2012

Purple Hairstreak pupae(at 34 days) - Surrey - 18th - April - 2014 (Reared)

Photo © Maximus
18-Apr-2014

Purple Hairstreak pupa(at 34 days) - Surrey - 18th - April - 2014 (Reared)

Photo © Maximus
18-Apr-2014

Purple Hairstreak pupa(at 34 days) - Surrey - 18th - April - 2014 (Reared)

Photo © Maximus
18-Apr-2014

Purple Hairstreak pupa, 01/05/2014 (reared Hampshire)

Photo © Pauline
01-May-2014

Purple Hairstreak pupa -Surrey -  20th May 2015

Photo © Maximus
12-May-2015

Purple Hairstreak pupa -Surrey -  20th May 2015

Photo © Maximus
12-May-2015

Photo Album (10 photos) ...


Aberrations

Description to be completed.

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

Similar Species

No similar species found.

Videos


Watch Video
Watch Video
Watch Video

The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.

References

The species description provided here references the following publications:

ReferenceDetails
Albin (1720) Albin, E. (1720) A Natural History of English Insects: Illustrated with a Hundred Copper Plates, Curiously Engraven from the Life.
Butler (1869) Butler, A.G. (1869) Catalogue of diurnal Lepidoptera described by Fabricius in the collection of the British museum.
Leach (1815) Leach (1815) In Brewster: The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia.
Linnaeus (1758) Linnaeus, C. (1758) Systema Naturae. Edition 10.
Petiver (1702-1706) Petiver, J. (1702-1706) Gazophylacii naturae et artis decas prima.
Petiver (1717) Petiver, J. (1717) Papilionum Britanniae Icones.
Sibatani & Ito (1942) Sibatani and Ito (1942) Tenthredo.
Swainson (1831) Swainson, W. (1831) Zoological illustrations, or, Original figures and descriptions of new, rare, or interesting animals, selected chiefly from the classes of ornithology, entomology, and conchology, and arranged according to their apparent affinities (Series 2, Vol.2).