This butterfly is the most widespread of our hairstreaks. However, it is also a local species, forming distinct colonies which can be as small as a few dozen individuals, although other colonies can be much larger. Both sexes always settle with their wings closed, the brown uppersides only ever being seen in flight. The undersides, by contrast, provide the illusion of being green, an effect produced by the diffraction of light on a lattice-like structure found within the wing scales, which provides excellent camouflage as the butterfly rests on a favourite perch, such as a Hawthorn branch. This butterfly will also regulate its body temperature by tilting its wings appropriately to catch the sun's rays. This butterfly is found throughout the British Isles - partly due to the wide variety of foodplants it uses, and the wide range of habitats it frequents. However, it is absent from the Isle of Man, Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland.
This species was first defined in Linnaeus (1758) as shown here (type locality: Sweden).
There is one brood each year, the butterfly typically being seen from mid-April to the end of June, depending on location. Emergence is typically later in more northern sites where this butterfly may be on the wing into early July.
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.
This butterfly can be found in a wide variety of habitats, including hillsides, moorland, chalk downland, heathland, railway embankments and valley bottoms. A common feature of all these habitats is the presence of scrubby plants and hedgerows.
This species has the widest range of foodplants of any British species, which includes Bilberry, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Broom, Common Rock-rose, Dogwood, Bramble and Gorse.
The primary larval foodplants are Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), Broom (Cytisus scoparius), Common Rock-rose (Helianthemum nummularium), Dyer's Greenweed (Genista tinctoria) and Gorse (Ulex europeaus). Bramble (Rubus fruticosus), Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), Cross-leaved Heath (Erica tetralix) and Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea) are also used.
Adults feed primarily on Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), Honeydew / Sap () and Privet (Ligustrum vulgare).
The male of this species is territorial and will have favourite perching sites that it uses to wait for passing females, but will dart out to investigate any passing object. The perches may be on standalone shrubs or part of a hedge and are often reused by different males should the original occupants wander too far. The female, on the other hand, spends most of her time away from the male territories, searching out nectar sources and foodplants on which to lay her eggs.
Description to be completed.
Click here to see a full list of aberrations for this species.
ab. brunnea (Tutt.Brit.Butts.1896.p.196.)= olivacea Blachier.Bull.Soc.Lep.Gen.1909.1.p.397.fig.
The underside brownish instead of green. Blachier gives olive, although his coloured figure shows an almost black underside.
ab. inferopunctata (Tutt.Brit.Lep.1907.9.p.92.)
Well-developed white spots on the underside of the hindwings only.
ab. punctata (Tutt.Brit.Lep.1907.9.p.92.)
Well-developed white spots on both fore and hindwings underside.
Eggs are laid singly on the foodplant and are a very pale green when first laid, but darken after a few days. Eggs are typically laid on the tenderest shoots or on flower buds. Eggs hatch after a week or two.
Like the larvae of other Lycaenids, the larva is shaped like a woodlouse. On hatching, the new larva often bores into the tender buds to feed, whereas later instars feed on young leaves and shoots, avoiding more matures leaves altogether. The larvae are cannibalistic after their first moult.
Like many other Lycaenids, this species benefits from an association with ants that provide it a level of protection and this association extends to the pupal stage. Pupae have been found in the wild covered in particles of soil, believed to have been put there by ants that are attracted to the pupa. Pupae have also been found deep inside ant nests. It has also been suggested that the pupa is formed at the base of plants among ground litter, occasionally attached to a dead leaf by a silken girdle. However, there appears to be little evidence that this is normal behaviour in the wild.
The Green Hairstreak hibernates as a pupa, which distinguishes it from all other hairstreaks found in the British Isles, which all hibernate as eggs.
An interesting characteristic of the pupa of this species, in common with other Lycaenids, is that the pupa is able to make a sound that is attractive to ants, a phenomenon first discovered in 1774. The noises produced by the pupa when it is disturbed are exceptionally loud and audible to the human ear.
No similar species found.
Click here to see the distribution of this species overlaid with specific site information. Alternatively, select one of the sites listed below.
|Aldbury Nowers, Alder Hills, Allt Mhuic Nature Reserve, Ardley Quarry, Arnside Knott, Ashclyst Forest, Ashlawn Cutting LNR, Aspal Close, Aston Clinton Ragpits, Aston Rowant NNR, Aston Upthorpe Downs, Avon Heath Country Park, Backwarden, Ballard Down, Bannerdown, Banstead Downs, Banstead Woods, Barnack Hills and Holes NNR, Barton Hills, Beachy Head, Beacon Hill, Belmaduthy, Bicton Common, Bin Combe, Bingham Linear Park, Black Rock, Boat of Garten, Bolt Head, Branscombe, Brigstock, Broaks Wood, Brown's Folly, Brown's Hill Quarry, Buckland Wood, Bury Ditches, Calstone Coombes, Cannock Chase, Cape Clear Island, Carpenters Down Wood, Carymoor Environmental Centre, Cashel, Cashel Bog, Cerne Hill Giant, Charnwood Lodge, Chevin Forest Park, Chobham Common, Chudleigh Knighton Heath, Clatworthy Reservoir, Clubmen's Down, College Lake, Cotley Hill, Covenham Reservoir, Craigavon Lakes, Craigower Hill, Creighton's Wood, Cribb's Meadow, Crook Peak, Culm Davey, Dancersend, Danes Moss, Darlands Banks LNR, Dean Hill (West), Denbies Hillside, Devil's Ditch, Ditchling Beacon, Dowrog Common, Duchie's Piece, Duncliffe Woods, Dunsford Meadow, Durlston Country Park, Durlston NNR, Earl's Hill, East Poldens Reserves, East Prawle coast, East Ruston Common, Ellerburn Bank, Feoch Meadows, Fingringhoe Wick, Fleam Dyke, Fontmell Down, Frog Firle Farm, Gibraltar Point NNR, Glen Loy, Glen Moss, Goblin Combe, Grangelands, Granville, Great Torrington Commons, Greenham Common, Greenhill Down, Greenscombe Woods, Gurney Slade, Haldon Butterfly Walk, Ham Common, Hartslock, Hawkswood, Haydon Hill, Headley Heath, Higher Hyde, Hinkley Point Nature Reserve, Hod Hill, Hog Cliff Bottom, Holton Lee, Hordle Cliff, Howell Hill, Hutchinsons Bank, Inversnaid, Ivinghoe, Jerry's Hole, Kilvey Hill, Kingcombe Stones, Lake Trawsfyndd, Langdon Reserve, Langford Heathfield, Lankham Bottom, Larden Chase, Lettermore, Levin Down, Leziate Country Park, Little Breach, Llangrannog, Llanymynech Rocks, Loch Ardinning, Loch Fleet, Long Knoll, Lords Lot Bog, Lydden Down, Lydlinch Common, Magdalen Hill Down, Maldon Wick, Malling Down, Martin Down, Meathop Moss, Mere Down, Moors Valley Country Park, New Bridge, Newbourne Springs, Noar Hill, Old Winchester Hill, Oldboley's Wood, Orley Common, Pembrey Country Park, Pen-fford-goch Pond, Pengwern Common, Penhale Sands, Penlee Point, Pewley Downs, Pexton Bank, Powerstock Common, Prestbury Hill, Prestwood Picnic Site, Priddy Mineries, Quoditch Moor Nature Reserve, Robert's Field, Rod Wood, Roudsea Wood NNR, Ryton Woods Meadows, Saltfleetby - Theddlethorpe Dunes, Sopley Common, Sovell Down, Spaunton Moor, Spean Bridge, Spurn Peninsula, Stock Beck Moor, Stoke Camp, Strawberry Banks, Stubhampton Bottom, Sutton Park NNR, Tadnoll, Telegraph Hill, Tentsmuir Point, The Dizzard, The Stiperstones, Thurlbear Quarrylands, Torr Works, Totternhoe Knolls and Quarry, Tring Park, Tulloch Moor, Twyford Wood, Twywell Hills and Dales, Ubley Warren, Uffmoor Wood, Walberswick, Walsey Hills, Walton Common, Warburg Reserve, Warton Crag, Watersmeet, Watlington Hill, Welsh Moor, West Down, West Hook Cliffs, West Yatton Down, Whipsnade, White Hill Reserve, White Sheet Hill, Wicken Fen, Wiveton Down, Wolfhamcote, Wolstonbury Hill, Wortham Ling, Wyre Forest, Yoesden Bank|
Both distribution and population trends show a decline and the conservation status of this butterfly is kept under review as a result.
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).
The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.
The species description provided here references the following publications:
|Billberg (1820)|| Billberg, G.J. (1820) Enumeratio insectorum in Museo.|
|Butler (1869)|| Butler, A.G. (1869) Catalogue of diurnal Lepidoptera described by Fabricius in the collection of the British museum.|
|Doubleday (1847)|| Doubleday, E. (1847) List of the Specimens of Lepidopterous Insects 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.|