Green Hairstreak

Callophrys rubi (KA-loh-friss ROO-by)

Green Hairstreak - Heyshott Escarpment, Sussex 12-May-2015
Photo © Neil Hulme
 

Wingspan
27 - 34mm

Checklist Number
61.005

Family:LycaenidaeLeach, 1815
Subfamily:TheclinaeButler, 1869
Tribe:EumaeiniDoubleday, 1847
Genus:CallophrysBillberg, 1820
Subgenus:  
Species:rubi(Linnaeus, 1758)

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Introduction

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.

Callophrys rubi

This species was first defined in Linnaeus (1758) as shown here (type locality: Sweden).

Green Hairstreak male - West Yatton Down, Wiltshire 3-May-2015 [Damian Pinguey]

Male
Photo © Damian Pinguey

Green Hairstreak - Devil's Dyke, Sussex 9-April-2017

Male Underside
Photo © Neil Hulme

female in flight - Ashley Heath, Dorset

Female
Photo © ronniethepoo

Green Hairstreak Ovipositing Stephens Castle Down 8.5.2016

Female Underside
Photo © Paul Harfield

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
1702Holly Under Green ButterflyPetiver (1702-1706)
1717Holly ButterflyPetiver (1717)
1749Green ButterflyWilkes (1749)
1766Green FlyHarris (1766)
1775Green PapillionHarris (1775a)
1775Bramble or Green FlyHarris (1775b)
1795Green HairstreakLewin (1795)
1819Green UndersideSamouelle (1819)

Conservation Status

Both distribution and population trends show a decline and the conservation status of this butterfly is kept under review as a result.

UK BAP StatusOccurrence Change
1976-2014 (%)
Abundance Change
1976-2014 (%)
Occurrence Change
2005-2014 (%)
Abundance Change
2005-2014 (%)
Not Listed
Decrease-30
Decrease-41
Decrease-14
Decrease-34

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 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.

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

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.

Imago

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.

Adults feed primarily on Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), Honeydew / Sap and Privet (Ligustrum vulgare).

Callophrys rubi

Green Hairstreak Ovipositing Stephens Castle Down 8.5.2016

Photo © Paul Harfield

Green Hairstreak - imago - Greenham Common - 02-May-15-3

Photo © Pete Eeles
02-May-2015

Green Hairstreak - imago - Greenham Common - 13-May-12

Photo © Pete Eeles

Green-Hairstreak- 5D35680. Leics April 2015.

Photo © IainLeach

Female Green Hairstreak just emerged, 20/04/2017, Liphook (reared)

Photo © Pauline
20-Apr-2017

Green Hairstreak, Rake Bottom, 28/04/2015

Photo © Pauline
28-Apr-2015

Green Hairstreak -  Heyshott Escarpment 14 May 2016

Photo © Susie

Green Hairstreak - imago - Bill Smyllie Reserve - 15-May-04 (2)

Photo © Pete Eeles
14-May-2004

Male Green Hairstreak showing sex-brand. 14/4/2017 Seaford.

Photo © badgerbob

Green Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 15-April-09 (1) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles
15-Apr-2009

Female Green Hairstreak just emerged, 06/05/2017, Liphook (reared)

Photo © Pauline
06-May-2017

Green Hairstreak - Heyshott Escarpment, Sussex 21-May-2014

Photo © Neil Hulme
21-May-2014

Female Green Hairstreak just emerged, 06/05/2017, Liphook (reared)

Photo © Pauline
06-May-2017

female in flight - Ashley Heath, Dorset

Photo © ronniethepoo
29-Jan-2009

Green Hairstreak - imago - Greenham Common - 25-Apr-11 (3)

Photo © Pete Eeles

Green Hairstreak - imago - Greenham Common - 08-May-05 (3)

Photo © Pete Eeles
08-May-2005

green hairstreak, egg laying on calluna vulgaris

Photo © geniculata

Green Hairstreak Female - Woldingham, Surrey 25-May-10

Photo © Vince Massimo
25-May-2010

Green-Hairstreak- 5D35219. Leics April 2015.

Photo © IainLeach

Female Green Hairstreak just emerged, 20/04/2017, Liphook (reared)

Photo © Pauline
20-Apr-2017

Photo Album (65 photos) ...


Ovum

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.

"The eggs are laid singly on a variety of plants — either on the young terminal shoots or flower-buds ... On June 22nd, 1902, a female C. rubi was seen to deposit a single egg on the unexpanded flower bud of rock rose (Helianthemum vulgare). This egg hatched on June 30th, remaining eight days in the egg state ... The egg is 0.65 mm. in diameter, of a compressed globular form, the micropyle sunken; it is covered with raised reticulations (very similar to the eggs of the Lycaenidae), which are smallest and form a pitted surface over the micropyle and gradually increase in size, becoming largest on the side, where they form a fine but irregular pattern, being studded with prominent knobs, each connected by less elevated ridges, numbering from five to seven but usually six; these as well as the knobs resemble white frosted glass; the true surface of the egg is granular and of a clear green colour, which remains unchanged for the first four days; on the fifth day it gradually becomes paler and greyer." - Frohawk (1924)

Green Hairstreak - ovum - Botany Bay - 26-May-04 (3)

Photo © Pete Eeles
26-May-2004

green hairstreak egg, on calluna vulgaris

Photo © geniculata

Green Hairstreak - ovum - Unknown location - Unknown date (2) [Tim Norriss]

Photo © Tim Norriss

Green Hairstreak - ovum - Greenham Common - 25-Apr-11 (1)

Photo © Pete Eeles

Green Hairstreak Ovum on Broom 15-May-2014

Photo © ABerryman

Green Hairstreak ovum, Paulsgrove, 17/05/2014

Photo © Pauline
17-May-2014

Green Hairstreak ovum

Photo © Tony Moore
Cannock Chase, Staffs. 21.05.14
21-May-2014

Green Hairstreak ovum - Wiltshire - 25-05-2014

Photo © Wurzel
25-May-2014

Green Hairstreak - ovum - Greenham Common - 04-May-14-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
04-May-2014

Green Hairstreak - ovum - Greenham Common - 04-May-14

Photo © Pete Eeles
04-May-2014

Green Hairstreak - ovum - Greenham Common - 11-May-14-4

Photo © Pete Eeles
11-May-2014

Green Hairstreak - ovum - Greenham Common - 11-May-14-5

Photo © Pete Eeles
11-May-2014

Green Hairstreak - ovum - Greenham Common - 11-May-14-6

Photo © Pete Eeles
11-May-2014

Green Hairstreak - ovum - Greenham Common - 11-May-14

Photo © Pete Eeles
11-May-2014

Green Hairstreak larva inside egg, 05/06/2016, Liphook. reared

Photo © Pauline
05-Jun-2016

Green Hairstreak - ovum - Greenham Common - 13-Jun-16

Photo © Pete Eeles
13-May-2016

Photo Album (16 photos) ...


Larva

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.

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.

Green Hairstreak - larva - Stoke Camp - 06-Aug-06 [Chris Iles]

Photo © Chris Iles

Green Hairstreak - larva - Unknown location - Unknown date [REARED] [Brian Clegg]

Photo © Brian Clegg

Green Hairstreak - larva - Unknown location - Unknown date [Tim Norriss]

Photo © Tim Norriss

Green Hairstreak larval feeding patterns, Liphook, 11/06/2016

Photo © Pauline
11-Jun-2016

Green Hairstreak Larva on Dogwood - 25.6.2016 - Stephens Castle Down

Photo © Paul Harfield

Green Hairstreak larva on Dogwood - 25.6.2016 - Stephens Castle Down

Photo © Paul Harfield

Photo Album (6 photos) ...


1st Instar

"The young larva directly after emergence measures 0.94. mm. long; it is rather stout in proportion, with the segmental divisions deeply cut. There is a medio-dorsal longitudinal furrow; the side sloping and concave; a swollen lateral ridge; numerous long hairs run in longitudinal rows down the body, chiefly situated in pairs on each segment; the first dorsal pair bordering on the furrow are very long with tubercular bases; close to and anterior to these is a smaller one, and between these and the sub-dorsal pair is a lenticle, and a cone-shaped tubercle, both olive-coloured; below the spiracle are four hairs forming a quadrangle, projecting laterally; the sub-dorsal hairs curve backwards; all the hairs are greyish and finely serrated with olive-coloured bulbous bases. On the first segment is a large shining olive-brown dorsal disc and a smaller one on the anal segment. The head is also olive-brown and shining; this and the discs are beset with whitish hairs. On the ventral surface, including the claspers, are simple white hairs. The whole surface is finely granular and studded with tiny black points on a pale olive-yellow ground colour. They feed on the tender central stems of the younger growth of broom, eating out small holes. The larva described in this article were fed entirely on broom, upon which the eggs were laid. Before the first moult it measures 1.7 mm. long; the ground colour is milky-white striped longitudinally with chocolate-brown, comprising a medio-dorsal double stripe, a zigzag spiracular stripe and a fine sub-spiracular line; the lateral ridge forms a white line continuous round both the first and last segments. Several moulted for the first time at the end of July. They remain in the first stage about ten days." - Frohawk (1924)

Green Hairstreak larva emerging from egg, 28/05/2016, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
28-May-2016

2 Green Hairstreak larva. one day old, 29/05/2016, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
29-May-2016

Green Hairstreak - larva (1st instar) - Thatcham - 15-May-14 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
15-May-2014

Green Hairstreak larva, just emerged from egg, 05/06/2016, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
05-Jun-2016

Green Hairstreak larva 5 days old, 02/06/2016, Liphook (reared)

Photo © Pauline
02-Jun-2016

Green Hairstreak - larva (1st instar) - Greenham Common - 11-May-14-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
11-May-2014

Green Hairstreak larva emerging from egg, 28/05/2016, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
28-May-2016

Green Hairstreak 1st instar, Noar Hill, 03/06/2017

Photo © Pauline
27-May-2017

Green Hairstreak larva emerging from egg, 28/05/2016, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
28-May-2016

Green Hairstreak larva emerging from egg, 28/05/2016, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
28-May-2016

Green Hairstreak larva emerging from egg, 05/06/2016, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
05-Jun-2016

Green Hairstreak larva, just emerged from egg, 28/05/2016, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
28-May-2016

Green Hairstreak larva emerging from egg, 05/06/2016, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
05-Jun-2016

Green Hairstreak - larva (1st instar) - Greenham Common - 11-May-14

Photo © Pete Eeles
11-May-2014

Green Hairstreak larva emerging from egg, 28/05/2016, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
28-May-2016

Green Hairstreak larva emerging from egg, 05/06/2016, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
05-Jun-2016

Green Hairstreak larva emerging from egg, 28/05/2016, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
28-May-2016

Green Hairstreak larva emerging from egg, 05/06/2016, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
05-Jun-2016

Green Hairstreak larva emerging from egg, 05/06/2016, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
05-Jun-2016

Green Hairstreak larva emerging from egg, 28/05/2016, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
28-May-2016

Photo Album (23 photos) ...


2nd Instar

"Three days after first moult it measures 4.20 mm. long. The segments are strongly humped dorsally, with a medio-dorsal furrow; the side is concave and there is a dilated lateral ridge. The surface of the body is covered with a minutely reticulated network pattern, and rather densely clothed (especially on the dorsal surface) with sharply pointed finely serrated dusky spines of various lengths; the dorsal discs are dusky-olive colour. At first the colouring resembles that previous to moulting, being creamy-white striped with chocolate-brown; the white gradually changes to light green and the brown to olive; the lateral ridge is greenish-white, bordered on either side by an olive stripe; the ventral surface is green, the head shining black. They feed almost entirely on the tender green stems. After the first moult they are cannibals, greedily devouring the younger individuals, especially while the latter are at rest and fixed for moulting; several were eaten by the freshly moulted ones. After moulting the larva partly eats its cast skin." - Frohawk (1924)

Green Hairstreak - larva (2nd instar) - Thatcham - 20-May-14 [REARED]-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-May-2014

Green Hairstreak - larva (2nd instar) - Thatcham - 20-May-14 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-May-2014

Green Hairstreak larva, 7 days old with shed skin, 04/06/2016, Liphook

Photo © Pauline
04-Jun-2016

Photo Album (3 photos) ...


3rd Instar

"The second moult occurred on July 5th, 1910. The second stage lasting seven days. Before third moult it measures 8 mm. long. The ground colour is pure green; the greenish-white lateral line and sub-dorsal markings of the previous stage are bright greenish-yellow and the darker markings and stripes are dark green; in other respects it is similar to the last stage. The head is intensely black and shining. The first meal after moulting consists of its cast skin. They still feed upon the stems of broom, and usually a single meal lasts a long time, often for two hours without ceasing." - Frohawk (1924)

Green Hairstreak - larva (3rd instar) - Thatcham - 23-May-14 [REARED]-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
23-May-2014

Green Hairstreak - larva (3rd instar) - Thatcham - 23-May-14 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
23-May-2014

Green Hairstreak - larva (3rd instar) - Thatcham - 25-May-14 [REARED]-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
25-May-2014

Green Hairstreak - larva (3rd instar) - Thatcham - 25-May-14 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
25-May-2014

Photo Album (4 photos) ...


4th Instar

"The third moult on July 13th, 1910, the third stage lasting eight days. After the third and last moult, fully grown, it measures 15.9 mm. long when extended crawling. The head is shining ochreous-brown, with a pearl-white band above the mouth and dark eye-spots. The head is hidden while at rest and usually when feeding, being withdrawn into the first segment, which is compressed dorsally and has a central dorsal pale ochreous shield on which are placed some minute lenticles. The segments are strongly humped dorsally, with a medio-dorsal longitudinal furrow; the last three segments slope dorsally and are rounded laterally like the first; the sides are sloping and concave, the lateral ridge dilated. The colour is a brilliant pure green, with a series of sub-dorsal oblique citrine-yellow markings commencing on the third segment, and a lateral line of the same colour. The legs are pale ochreous, feet of claspers whitish. It is rather densely covered with brown spinous hairs of various lengths; many of the smaller ones are serrated. On the tenth segment is a small inconspicuous transverse dorsal gland, smaller but apparently similar to that of the Lycaenidae larvae. They still retain their cannibalistic habits and will attack each other when fully grown. When ready for pupation the larva roams about in search of a suitable recess for the purpose. In captivity they pupated among the litter on the ground, and in some instances were hidden between the stems and leaves of the broom on which they fed. In a natural state they undoubtedly pupate on the ground among moss or other suitable cover." - Frohawk (1924)

Green Hairstreak - larva (4th instar) - Thatcham - 06-Jun-14 [REARED]-4

Photo © Pete Eeles
06-Jun-2014

Green Hairstreak - larva (4th instar) - Thatcham - 06-Jun-14 [REARED]-5

Photo © Pete Eeles
06-Jun-2014

Green Hairstreak - larva (4th instar) - Thatcham - 06-Jun-14 [REARED]-6

Photo © Pete Eeles
06-Jun-2014

Green Hairstreak - larva (4th instar) - Thatcham - 06-Jun-14 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
06-Jun-2014

Green Hairstreak - larva (4th instar) - Thatcham - 07-Jun-14 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
07-Jun-2014

Green Hairstreak - larva (4th instar) - Thatcham - 29-May-14 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
29-May-2014

Photo Album (6 photos) ...


Pupa

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.

"The pupa is not fixed, but merely loosely spun over with a few silken threads. The pupa measures from 8 mm. to 9.5 mm. long. It is stout, rounded and dumpy in form. Lateral view: The head is slightly angular in front, being somewhat truncated below; thorax rounded, slightly sunken at the waist; abdomen swollen, rounded and curved to the blunt round anal extremity, which is provided with a few minute anchor-shaped cremastral hooks; the ventral outline is almost straight. Dorsal view: Head rounded; sides of thorax, very slightly angular; abdomen bulging across the middle, then tapering off to anal segment, which is rounded and without any cremastral projections. The whole of the dorsal surface of the head, thorax and abdomen is densely clothed with finely serrated spines of a dark brown colour rising from shining wart-like bases. The wings and limbs are without spines. The entire surface is covered with raised reticulations, and along the spiracular region are numerous minute lenticles, some exceedingly small. The spiracles are olive-ochreous, rather large and prominent. The division between the fifth and sixth segments is deeply incised over the dorsal area, reaching to the spiracle. The ground colour is amber-brown, checkered and speckled with black, the most conspicuous forming transverse markings on the abdomen. Some specimens are much more heavily marked than others, giving them a very dark appearance. The pupal state occupies about ten months, that is from about the middle of July to the middle of the following May." - Frohawk (1924)

Green Hairstreak - pupa - Thatcham - 21-Oct-08 (1) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles
21-Oct-2008

Green Hairstreak - pupa - Thatcham - 09-Jul-14 [REARED]-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Jul-2014

Green Hairstreak - pupa - Thatcham - 09-Jul-14 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Jul-2014

Green Hairstreak pupa (May 2016) - Reared from ovum found on Cannock Chase.   Now released back into the wild.

Photo © Tony Moore

Photo Album (4 photos) ...


Aberrations

Description to be completed.

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

Similar Species

No similar species found.

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The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.

References

The species description provided here references the following publications:

ReferenceDetails
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.
Frohawk (1924) Frohawk, F.W. (1924) The Natural History of British Butterflies.
Harris (1766) Harris, M. (1766) The Aurelian. Edition 1.
Harris (1775a) Harris, M. (1775) The Aurelian. Edition 2.
Harris (1775b) Harris, M. (1775) The English Lepidoptera: or, The Aurelian's Pocket Companion.
Leach (1815) Leach (1815) In Brewster: The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia.
Lewin (1795) Lewin, W. (1795) The Papilios of Great Britain.
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.
Samouelle (1819) Samouelle, G. (1819) The Entomologist's Useful Compendium.
Wilkes (1749) Wilkes, B. (1749) The English moths and butterflies: together with the plants, flowers and fruits whereon they feed, and are usually found.