Green Hairstreak

  • Green Hairstreak (underwing)
    Green Hairstreak (underwing)
  • Green Hairstreak with bee
    Green Hairstreak with bee
  • Green Hairstreak
    Green Hairstreak
  • Green Hairstreak (egg)
    Green Hairstreak (egg)
  • Green Hairstreak (pupa)
    Green Hairstreak (pupa)
  • Green Hairstreak (underwing)
    Green Hairstreak (underwing)
  • Green Hairstreak with bee
    Green Hairstreak with bee
  • Green Hairstreak
    Green Hairstreak
  • Green Hairstreak (egg)
    Green Hairstreak (egg)
  • Green Hairstreak (pupa)
    Green Hairstreak (pupa)

Scientific name: Callophrys rubi

The Green Hairstreak is the only green-coloured butterfly in the UK, although the metallic green colouring is only on the undersides of the wings - the uppersides are brown.

It holds its wings closed except when in flight, showing only the green underside with its faint white streak. The extent of this white marking is very variable; it is often reduced to a just few white dots, or even almost absent markings.

The males and females look similar, but can be distinguished by their behaviour. Rival males may be seen in a spiralling flight close to shrubs, while the less noticeable females are more often seen away from the males, laying eggs, or flying over large areas searching for places to lay their eggs.

The pale green eggs are laid singly in the buds or leaf tips of the foodplant and are very hard to find. They turn a darker green after a few days and hatch after one or two weeks.

The caterpillar has four stages of growth (instars), starting off small and brown and finally turning green with yellow markings and with an unusual segmented shape, like a woodlouse. After their first moult they turn cannibalistic, also eating their cast skin.

The Green Hairstreak caterpillar is the only Hairstreak to hibernate as a chrysalis (pupa). The brown, hairy chrysalis, as with many other Lycaenids, has a mutually beneficial relationship with ants. In return for protection, the chysalis provides the ants with secretions, using an attractive sound to draw in the ants. The ants often bury the chysalis, or even carry it down into their nest.

This species usually occurs in small colonies of less than 50 individuals. Although it is a widespread species, it has undergone local losses in several regions.

Size and Family

  • Family: Hairstreaks
  • Size: Small
  • Wing Span Range (male to female): 33mm

Conservation Status

  • Butterfly Conservation priority: Medium                        
  • European status: Not threatened

Caterpillar Foodplants

Common Rock-rose (Helianthemum nummularium) and Common Bird's-foot-trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) are used on calcareous grassland.
Gorse (Ulex europeaus), Broom (Cytisus scoparius), and Dyer's Greenweed (Genista tinctoria) are used on heathland and other habitats.
Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) is used almost exclusively on moorland and throughout Scotland.
Other foodplants include shrubs such as Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea), Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), Cross-leaved Heath (Erica tetralix) and Bramble (Rubus fruticosus).

Lifecycle

Habitat

This butterfly uses many habitats including; chalk grassland, woodland rides and clearings, heathland, moorland, bogs, railway cuttings, old quarries and rough, scrubby grassland.
It occurs on a wide range of soils, but is strongly associated with scrub and shrubs. 

Distribution

  • Countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland
  • Widespread throughout Britain and Ireland, but not a garden visitor and often difficult to spot
  • Distribution Trend Since 1970’s: -29%

Factsheets

Similar species