Insects of Britain and Ireland: butterflies

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L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz



Adults. Wingspan 31–40 mm; the fringes not banded. Medium built; short-bodied. The eyes white-rimmed; notched or emarginate at the bases of the antennae and contiguous with the bases of the antennal sockets; hairy. Antennae white-ringed, reaching noticeably less than halfway to the wingtips. The antennal clubs gradual-elongate; not flattened. Labial palps ascending. Having all 6 legs fully developed and operational for walking. Fore-legs without a tibial epiphysis. Tibiae of middle legs 2-spurred. Posterior tibiae 2-spurred.

Forewings. Forewings apically blunt to pointed. The outer and hind margins angled at about 95–100 degrees. The outer margins only slightly convexly curved, or more or less straight. Uppersides of the forewings deep purple and fuscous, or blue to purple, or blue and fuscous (in the female); with a conspicuous discal mark (this small, dark); dark, purple-tinged fuscous in the male; in the female deep purple-blue over the disc and dorsally, the costa, apical-postmedian and terminal regions dark fuscous.

Hindwings. Hindwings broadly rounded; briefly but conspicuously tailed (in the form of a short terminal projection from vein 2); the tail filamentous and delicate to not filamentous; with the outer margins not scalloped. Uppersides of the hindwings deep purple and fuscous (in the male), or fuscous (in the female); plain; without a discal mark; coloured like the forewings in the male, fuscous and scarcely if at all purple-tinged in the female.

Undersides of wings. Undersides of the wings not multiply patterned with pale-ringed black spots or sinuous lines.

Undersides of the forewings pale ochreous grey, with a white, anteriorly dark-edged postmedian line and a paler sinuous subterminal line, and two orange, black-centred subterminal dots towards the tornus which are more or less obsolete.

Undersides of the hindwings pale ochreous grey with a white, anteriorly dark-edged postmedian line and a paler sinuous subterminal line, and with two conspicuous, orange, black-centred subterminal dots towards the tornus; eye-spotted. The eye-spots 2; near the tornus. Undersides of the hindwings without a discal mark.

Wing venation. Forewings 10 veined, or 11 veined. Forewings with 1 tubular anal vein; the anal veins of the forewings representing 1b only; vein 1b furcate proximally to simple. Forewing veins 7 missing, 8 and 9 stalked or coincident, 6 out of 9.

Hindwings 9 veined; without a praecostal spur; with 2 anal veins; exhibiting vein 1a; the anal veins comprising 1a and 1b. 7 veins arising from the hindwing cell. The cell-derived hindwing veins 3+4 proximally joined (connate only).

Eggs, larvae, pupae. Eggs discoid; densely spinulose. The larvae woodlouse-shaped; having no known association with ants (lacking the honey gland?); exposed feeders (rarely), or concealed feeders. On Quercus, occasionally Salix.

Pupae smooth and rounded; conspicuously patterned; concealed (under moss or subterranean).

British representation. 1 species. Neozephyrus (Quercusia) quercus (Purple Hairstreak). The adults abroad July and August.

Status in Britain. Indigenous.

Distribution. Northern Scotland, southern Scotland, northern England, English Midlands, East Anglia, Wales, southeast England, central southern England, southwest England, Isle of Wight, and Ireland. Frequenting woodland. Habitats calcareous and non-calcareous.

Classification. Superfamily Papilionoidea. Lycaenidae.

Illustrations. • N. quercus (Purple Hairstreak): photos. • N. quercus (Purple Hairstreak): egg, larva, pupa. • Larvae and pupa of N. quercus: Duponchel (1849).

To view the illustrations with detailed captions, go to the interactive key. This also offers full and partial descriptions, diagnostic descriptions, differences and similarities between taxa, lists of taxa exhibiting or lacking specified attributes, and distributions of character states within any set of taxa.

Cite this publication as: ‘Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 2008 onwards. Insects of Britain and Ireland: butterflies. Version: 16th May 2016.’.