THE SPEC­TRUM OF BLUES

Landscape (UK) - - In The Home -

There are six other blue but­ter­flies in Bri­tain as well as the closely re­lated Brown Ar­gus and North­ern Brown Ar­gus. Of these, only the Holly Blue is any­where near as com­mon and wide­spread as the Com­mon Blue. Found in much of Eng­land and Wales, and parts of North­ern Ire­land, it is more of­ten in gar­dens than grass­lands. Holly Blues also have two gen­er­a­tions, the first of which lays its eggs on holly and the sec­ond on ivy, so it is of­ten found in church­yards. The other five blues, Ado­nis, Sil­ver-stud­ded, Chalk Hill, Large and Small, are far more lo­calised. Apart from the Sil­ver-stud­ded, which has an out­ly­ing pop­u­la­tion in North Wales, they can only be seen on the chalk and lime­stone down­lands of south­ern Eng­land. Even here, they are of­ten con­fined to a few na­ture re­serves, where the veg­e­ta­tion is spe­cially man­aged for their needs. They usu­ally emerge in June, July and Au­gust. All lay their eggs on spe­cific food plants for their cater­pil­lars, most of which are in de­cline as so much land is be­ing lost to in­ten­sive farm­ing, roads and hous­ing. Of all the blues, the Ado­nis, named af­ter an es­pe­cially hand­some Greek god, is the most strik­ing. The males are an in­tense shade of blue, con­trast­ing with the Chalk Hill blue’s more sub­tle pow­der-blue hue. The Sil­ver-stud­ded blue has metal­lic blue spots on its un­der­wings, whereas the Small Blue is a very dark blue. As its name sug­gests, it is Bri­tain’s small­est but­ter­fly. The Large Blue, which in re­al­ity is only a lit­tle larger than the Com­mon Blue, be­came ex­tinct in Bri­tain in 1979. How­ever, thanks to dis­cov­er­ies about its com­plex life cy­cle and habi­tat needs, and huge ef­forts on the part of sci­en­tists and con­ser­va­tion­ists, it has been suc­cess­fully rein­tro­duced as a British breed­ing species in Som­er­set and Glouces­ter­shire. Crowds of but­ter­fly en­thu­si­asts gather there in June and July to catch sight of it.

The Small Blue feeds solely on kid­ney vetch.

The sil­very-winged Holly Blue.

An Ado­nis Blue flaunts its colour.

Sil­ver-stud­ded Blues pre­fer heath­land.

The paler Chalk Hill Blue of the south.

The Large Blue is ex­tremely rare in Bri­tain.

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