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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.
Brown Hairstreak - Steyning Rifle Range, Sussex 4-Aug-2013
Wingspan
Male: 36 - 41mm
Female: 39 - 45mm
Photo © Neil Hulme
Brown Hairstreak

Thecla betulae
THECK-luh
bet-YOU-lee
Number: 61.003
B&F No.: 1556
Family:Lycaenidae (Leach, 1815)
Subfamily:Theclinae (Butler, 1869)
Tribe:Theclini (Swainson, 1831)
Genus:Thecla (Fabricius, 1807)
Subgenus: 
Species:betulae (Linnaeus, 1758)
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  Introduction  

This is the largest hairstreak found in the British Isles. It is a local species that lives in self-contained colonies that breed in the same area year after year. This species can also prove elusive, since it spends much of its time resting and basking high up in tall shrubs and trees. The female is particularly beautiful, with forewings that contain large orange patches, and was once considered to be a separate species known as the "Golden Hairstreak". This species is found in the southern half of England and Wales, and also around the Burren in Ireland. In England its strongholds are in West Sussex, Surrey, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, North Devon and South Devon. Strongholds in Wales are in Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire. In Ireland it is primarily found in the Burren limestones of Clare and South-east Galway. The northernmost sites are found in North Lincolnshire.

Thecla betulae

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


Male Brown Hairstreak, Shipton Bellinger, 06/08/2013
Male
Photo © Pauline
Brown Hairstreak - Male - Shipton Bellinger - 09.08.13
Male Underside
Photo © PhiliB
Brown Hairstreak - Knepp Estate, Sussex 8-Aug-2013
Female
Photo © Neil Hulme
Brown Hairstreak female - Knepp Estate, Sussex 3-Aug-2013
Female Underside
Photo © Neil Hulme

  Phenology  

There is one generation each year. This is one of the latest species to emerge in the British Isles, with adults first seen on the wing in late July or early August.


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  

This species lives in habitats where Blackthorn, the primary larval foodplant, is abundant, such as hedgerows and woodland.

  Larval Foodplants  

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

  Nectar Sources  

Adults feed primarily on Honeydew / Sap (). Bramble (Rubus fruticosus), Devil's-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis), Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum), Hogweed / Angelica (Umbelliferae), Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) and Thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.) are also used.

  Imago  

Adults emerge in the morning and males generally appear a few days before females. This is a warmth-loving butterfly, and is rarely seen on overcast days. On sunny days the adults will rest with wings open, absorbing the sun's rays on their dark brown wings which gradually close as they warm up. In flight, the adults are easily mistaken for the Gatekeeper, which flies at the same time.

The males are the more-elusive of the two sexes, congregating high on ash "master trees" that are positioned around the breeding area, where they feed on honeydew. They occasionally come down to feed on various nectar sources, such as Hemp Agrimony, probably when honeydew is scarce. When they do come down, however, they can be remarkably tame and easy to observe. Mating occurs without any discernable courtship, typically high in a tree.

Females also spend their time on the master trees until the eggs have matured and they are ready to lay. They then disperse and alternate between basking in the warm sunshine, feeding from nectar sources, and egg-laying. Egg-laying sites are typically in sheltered areas at the edges of woodland or hedgerows where younger growth that is south-facing is favoured. The female will crawl among the branches of the foodplant, feeling the branches for appropriate sites, when egg-laying.


Brown Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 28-Jul-06 (0630) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
30-Jul-2006
Female Brown Hairstreak, Shipton Bellinger, 06/08/2013
Photo © Pauline
06-Aug-2013
brown hairstreak mating pair aug 09
Photo © geniculata
09-Aug-2009
Brown Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 30-Jul-09 (1) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
30-Jul-2009
Brown Hairstreak - Shipton Bellinger - 15 Aug 2010 (1)
Photo © Clive
15-Aug-2010
Male Brown Hairstreak, Shipton Bellinger, 06/08/2013
Photo © Pauline
06-Aug-2013
Male Brown Hairstreak, Shipton Bellinger, 06/08/2013
Photo © Pauline
06-Aug-2013
Brown Hairstreak Female - Ifield, Crawley, Sussex 4-Aug-06
Photo © Vince Massimo
04-Aug-2006
Brown Hairstreak Male (Reared) - Caterham, Surrey 5-July-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
05-Jul-2011
Brown Hairstreak (f)  Shipton Bellinger, Hants  24th August 2010
Photo © millerd
24-Aug-2010
Brown-Hairstreak-Chambers Wood 13 Aug 2011 03C1605
Photo © IainLeach
Brown-Hairstreak-Chambers Wood 13 Aug 2011 03C3796b
Photo © IainLeach
Brown-Hairstreak-Chambers Wood 13 Aug 2011 03C9498
Photo © IainLeach
Brown-Hairstreak-Chambers Wood 21 Aug 2011 03C3743
Photo © IainLeach
Brown-Hairstreak-Chambers Wood 21 Aug 2011 03C2444
Photo © IainLeach
Brown Hairstreak (female), West Sussex (14 August 2012)
Photo © Mark Colvin
14-Aug-2012
Brown Hairstreak (female), West Sussex (14 August 2012)
Photo © Mark Colvin
14-Aug-2012
Brown Hairstreak (female), West Sussex (14 August 2012)
Photo © Mark Colvin
14-Aug-2012
Female ovipositing - Whitecross Green Wood 31-Aug-2012 DSC 7856
Photo © steveb
Brown Hairstreak female - Steyning, Sussex 23-Aug-2012
Photo © Neil Hulme
23-Aug-2012
Brown Hairstreak - Steyning, Sussex 2-Aug-2010
Photo © Neil Hulme
02-Aug-2010
Brown Hairstreak female - Steyning, Sussex 2-Aug-2010
Photo © Neil Hulme
02-Aug-2010
Brown Hairstreak female - Knepp Estate, Sussex 3-Aug-2013
Photo © Neil Hulme
03-Aug-2013
Brown Hairstreak - Steyning Rifle Range, Sussex 4-Aug-2013
Photo © Neil Hulme
04-Aug-2013
Brown Hairstreak - Knepp Estate, Sussex 8-Aug-2013
Photo © Neil Hulme
08-Aug-2013
Brown Hairstreak - male - Boston, Clare - 10-Aug-13
Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Aug-2013
Brown Hairstreak - Male - Shipton Bellinger - 09.08.13
Photo © PhiliB
09-Aug-2013
Brown Hairstreak - Male - Shipton Bellinger - 09.08.13
Photo © PhiliB
09-Aug-2013
Brown Hairstreak - Male - Shipton Bellinger - 12.08.13
Photo © PhiliB
12-Aug-2013
Brown Hairstreak - male - Shipton Bellinger - 14th - Aug - 2013
Photo © Maximus
14-Aug-2013
Brown Hairstreak - female - Shipton Bellinger - 13-08-2013
Photo © Wurzel
13-Aug-2013
Brown Hairstreak female ovipositing - Noar Hill, Hampshire 2010
Photo © Mike Young
Recently emerged Brown Hairstreak, female, 11/06/2014, reared
Photo © Pauline
11-Jun-2014
Recently emerged Brown Hairstreak, female, 11/06/2014, reared
Photo © Pauline
11-Jun-2014
Brown Hairstreak female - Steyning Downland Scheme, Sussex 21-Aug-2014
Photo © Neil Hulme
21-Aug-2014
Brown Hairstreak - Steyning Downland Scheme, Sussex 19-Aug-2014
Photo © Neil Hulme
19-Aug-2014

  Aberrations  

Description to be completed.

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

ab. lata (Tutt.Brit.Lep.1907.9.p.279.)

Female. The orange patch at the end of the cell broad but not crossed by black nervures.


Brown Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 23-Jul-06 (0459) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
23-Jul-2006

ab. spinosae (Gerhard.Mon.Beitr.Schmett.1853.pl.3.f.2.)

Male. Brown with an orange patch at the end of the discoidal cell and two smaller interneural patches beneath.


Brown Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 31-Jul-09 (1) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
31-Jul-2009
Brown Hairstreak - imago - Thatcham - 31-Jul-09 (2) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
31-Jul-2009

ab. uncilinea (Tutt.Brit.Lep.1907.9.p.280.)

Underside. The inner white line on the hindwings is curved upwards at the bottom in the form of a hook.


Brown Hairstreak ab. uncilinea - Whitecross Green Wood
Photo © Trev Sawyer
Brown Hairstreak (f) ab unclilinea 100dpi Whitecross Green Wood 080729 9161 [David Newland]
Photo © David Newland
29-Jul-2008

  Ovum  

The sea urchin-shaped eggs are laid singly on the bark of the foodplant, typically at a fork in a branch that is on one- or two-year old growth that is in a sheltered area exposed to the sun. Eggs are laid at low density over large areas, but 2 or 3 eggs are found together on occasion. The larva partially develops within the egg before entering hibernation for the winter. Overwintering eggs are particularly vulnerable to hedge-trimming since they are laid on the youngest growth of the foodplant.


Brown Hairstreak Ovipositing
Photo © Pete Withers
Brown Hairstreak fresh eggs
Photo © Pete Withers
Brown Hairstreak - ovum - Noar Hill - 20-Jan-08 [Robin Turner]
Photo © Robin Turner
Brown Hairstreak Ovum - Crawley, Sussex 4-Jan-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
04-Jan-2011
Brown Hairstreak (ovum), West Sussex (14 August 2012)
Photo © Mark Colvin
14-Aug-2012
Brown Hairstreak ovum (hatched in captivity) Caterham, Surrey 11-April-2011
Photo © Vince Massimo
One year after hatch
11-Jan-2012
Brown Hairstreak egg [Gillian Thompson]
Photo © Gillian Thompson
02-Feb-2011
Brown Hairstreak egg [Gillian Thompson]
Photo © Gillian Thompson
02-Feb-2011
Brown Hairstreak eggs [Gillian Thompson]
Photo © Gillian Thompson
03-Mar-2011
Brown Hairstreak egg [Gillian Thompson]
Photo © Gillian Thompson
04-Sep-2011
Brown Hairstreak (ovum), Captive Bred
Photo © Mark Colvin
Brown Hairstreak - ovum - Thatcham - 10-Mar-13 (2) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
Brown Hairstreak - ovum - Thatcham - 10-Mar-13 (3) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
Brown Hairstreak - ovum - Thatcham - 10-Mar-13 (4) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
Freshly laid BH egg, West Williamston, Pembrokeshire, 22.08.2013
Photo © David M
Seconds old Brown Hairstreak egg contrasting with older egg immediately above.
22-Aug-2013
Brown Hairstreak Ovum - Somerset 17-March-2013
Photo © William
Found - Whitecross Green Wood.  Autumn 2013
Photo © Tony Moore
27-Feb-2012

  Larva  

The larva emerges from the egg in spring by cutting a hole in the top of the egg and immediately enters a developing bud. The eggshell is not eaten and may be found some time after the larva has emerged. After the first moult, the larva will rest by day on a silk pad situated on the underside of a leaf, feeding away from its resting place at night, and returning to rest as dawn approaches. The bright green larva is extremely well-camouflaged, blending perfectly with the leaf on which it sits. The fully-fed larva leaves the foodplant prior to pupation, changing colour to a dull purple to maintain the excellent camouflage as it rummages around in leaf litter. There are 3 moults in total.


Brown Hairstreak - larva - Thatcham - 10-Jun-06 (0249) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Jun-2006
Brown Hairstreak - larva - Thatcham - 24-May-05 [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
24-May-2005
Brown Hairstreak - larva - Thatcham - 04-Jul-09 (1) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
04-Jul-2009
Brown Hairstreak - larva - Thatcham - 04-Jul-09 (2) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
04-Jul-2009
Brown Hairstreak Larva (6 hours before pupation) (Reared) Caterham, Surrey 13-June-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
13-Jun-2011
Brown Hairstreak Larva (10 hours after ceased feeding) (Reared) Caterham, Surrey 29-May-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
29-May-2011
Brown Hairstreak Larva (10 hours after ceased feeding) (Reared) Caterham, Surrey 29-May-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
29-May-2011
Brown Hairstreak Larva (7 hours after ceased feeding) (Reared) Caterham, Surrey 6-June-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
06-Jun-2011
Brown Hairstreak Larva (3 hours after ceased feeding) (Reared) Caterham, Surrey 6-June-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
06-Jun-2011
Brown Hairstreak Larvae (colour comparison of feeding and non-feeding individuals) (Reared) Caterham, Surrey 4-June-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
04-Jun-2011
Brown Hairstreak Larva (fully grown) (Reared) Caterham, Surrey 4-June-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
04-Jun-2011
Brown Hairstreak Larva (35 days old) (Reared) Caterham, Surrey 16-May-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
16-May-2011
Brown Hairstreak Larva (12 day old 2nd instar) (Reared) Caterham, Surrey 23-April-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
23-Apr-2011
Brown Hairstreak Larva (3 day old 1st instar) (Reared) Caterham, Surrey 14-April-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
14-Apr-2011
Brown Hairstreak Larva (4 day old 1st instar) (Reared) Caterham, Surrey 14-April-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
14-Apr-2011
BrH Larva The Abyss 2012 (bred) - It must seem a long way down!
Photo © tomdunbar
Brown Hairstreak - larva - Thatcham - 24-Jun-13 (1) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
24-Jun-2013
Brown Hairstreak Larva (1st Instar) - Somerset 27-April-2013
Photo © William
Brown Hairstreak Larva (Hatching) - Somerset 27-April-2013
Photo © William
Brown Hairstreak Larva - Just Hatched - Surrey - 18th - March - 2014 - (Reared)
Photo © Maximus
18-Mar-2014
Brown Hairstreak Larva - Just Hatched - Surrey - 18th - March - 2014 - (Reared)
Photo © Maximus
18-Mar-2014
Brown Hairstreak Larva - Hatching - Surrey - 19th - March - 2014 (Reared)
Photo © Maximus
19-Mar-2014
Brown Hairstreak Larva - Hatching - Surrey - 19th - March - 2014 (Reared)
Photo © Maximus
19-Mar-2014
Brown Hairstreak Larva - Hatching - Surrey - 19th - March - 2014 (Reared)
Photo © Maximus
19-Mar-2014
Brown Hairstreak Larva - Hatching - Surrey - 19th - March - 2014 (Reared)
Photo © Maximus
19-Mar-2014
Brown Hairstreak Larva - Hatching - Surrey - 19th - March - 2014 (Reared)
Photo © Maximus
19-Mar-2014
Brown Hairstreak Larva - Surrey - 19th - March - 2014 (Reared)
Photo © Maximus
Brown Hairstreak Larva - Surrey - 19th - March - 2014 (Reared)
Photo © Maximus
19-Mar-2014
Brown Hairstreak Larva (5 days old) - Surrey - 23rd - March - 2014 (Reared)
Photo © Maximus
23-Mar-2014
Brown Hairstreak Larva (5 days old) - Surrey - 23rd - March - 2014 (Reared)
Photo © Maximus
23-Mar-2014
BH Larva (reared) Hampshire 29/03/2014 4 days old
Photo © Pauline
29-Mar-2014
BH Larva (reared) Hampshire 01/04/2014, 6 days old
Photo © Pauline
01-Apr-2014
BH Larva (reared) Hampshire  03/04/2014 9 days old
Photo © Pauline
03-Apr-2014
BH Larva (reared) Hampshire 01/04/2014 8 days old
Photo © Pauline
01-Apr-2014
Brown Hairstreak larva(29 days old) - Surrey - 18th - April - 2014 (Reared)
Photo © Maximus
18-Apr-2014
Brown Hairstreak larva - (15 days old) - Surrey - 22nd - April - 2012
Photo © Maximus
22-Apr-2014
Brown Hairstreak larva pupating - approx 46 days old - Surrey - 5th - May - 2014 (Reared)
Photo © Maximus
05-May-2014
Brown Hairstreak larva (reared) - Surrey 18-April-2014
Photo © Maximus
18-Apr-2014
Brown Hairstreak - larva - Thatcham - 04-May-14 [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
04-May-2014
Brown Hairstreak - larva (4th instar) - Thatcham - 11-May-14 [REARED]-2
Photo © Pete Eeles
11-May-2014
Brown Hairstreak - larva (4th instar) - Thatcham - 11-May-14 [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
11-May-2014

  Pupa  

The pupa is formed in a crevice in the ground, amongst the leaf litter or at the base of a plant. It has been known for a pupa to be buried by ants, which find it highly attractive, in a loose cell of dry earth. It is believed that mice and shrews are responsible for eating large numbers of pupae in the wild. This stage lasts around 4 weeks.


Brown Hairstreak - pupa - Thatcham - 05-Jul-05 [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
01-Jul-2005
Brown Hairstreak - pupa - Thatcham - 26-Jun-05 [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
25-Jun-2005
Brown Hairstreak - pupa - Thatcham - 31-May-05 [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
31-May-2005
Brown Hairstreak Pupa (Reared) Caterham, Surrey 15-June-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
15-Jun-2011
Brown Hairstreak Pupa (Female) (1 day before hatching) (Reared) Caterham, Surrey 12-July-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
12-Jul-2011
Brown Hairstreak Pupa (Female) (3 days before hatching) (Reared) Caterham, Surrey 10-July-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
10-Jul-2011
Brown Hairstreak Pupa (Reared) Caterham, Surrey 2-July-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
02-Jul-2011
Brown Hairstreak Pupa (Reared) Caterham, Surrey 2-July-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
02-Jul-2011
Brown Hairstreak Pupa (freshly emerged) (Reared) Caterham, Surrey 13-June-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
13-Jun-2011
(Reared) Attached shed skin created imaginary 'facial features' with interesting hairstyle
Photo © tomdunbar
25-Jun-2006

  Similar Species  

No similar species found.

  Videos  

Video © John Chapple
Brown Hairstreak. Male
Video © John Chapple
Brown Hairstreak female
Video © Bill Smith
Brown Hairstreak - Patrick Barkham's "Guide To British Butterflies" DVD
Video © Sjaak van Beek
Sleedoornpage, Brown Hairstreak in Apeldoorn
Video ©
Brown Hairstreak egg laying Bookham 310814

  Sites  

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

Sites
Alner's Gorse, Anstey's Cove, Asham Meads, Bernwood Forest, Bernwood Meadows, Boston, Carymoor Environmental Centre, Chambers Farm Wood, Dromore Wood, East Poldens Reserves, Grafton Wood, Hatton Meadows, Horley, Ifield, Langford Heathfield, Levin Down, Little Breach, Lough Bunny, Lydlinch Common, Mansmead wood, Mount Fancy Reserve, Noar Hill, Orley Common, Otmoor RSPB Reserve, Piddington Wood, Pulborough Brooks (RSPB), Rushbeds Wood, Shipton Bellinger, Somerford Common, Steyning Downs, Stoke Common Meadows, Thurlbear Quarrylands, Warnham LNR, Welsh Wildlife Centre, West Williamston Salt Marshes, Whitecross Green Wood, Witch Lodge Fields

  Conservation Status  

The long-term trend for this species shows a severe decline and it is therefore a priority species for conservation efforts. Unsympathetic farming practices that involve the flailing of hedgerows containing overwintering eggs are considered to be one factor in this demise.

UK BAP StatusDistribution Trend (%)Population Trend (%)
Priority Species
Click here to access the Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) for this species.
Stable+1Decrease-40

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

  Copyright © Peter Eeles 2002-2014
All rights are reserved
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