This handsome butterfly is widely distributed throughout southern areas wherever there are oak trees; even a solitary tree may support a colony. It is frequently overlooked as adults remain largely in the canopy where the main adult food source is honeydew; they fly more commonly in the evening of a warm summer's day. They are only driven down to seek fluid and nectar during prolonged drought, as occurred in 1995-6. 

There has been a recent increase in records and an extension of the range of this butterfly especially in south-west Scotland, even in urban areas which may be related to improvements in atmospheric quality. White-letter Hairstreak is similar but has W-shaped streak. 

Size and Family

  • Family: Hairstreaks
  • Size: Small
  • Wing Span Range (male to female): 37-39mm

Caterpillar Foodplants

The Purple Hairstreak is restricted to Oak trees including both the native species, Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea) and Pedunculate Oak (Q. robur), and the introduced Turkey Oak (Q. cerris). Evergreen Oak (Q.ilex) also may be used.



    Difficult to spot as it flies around the tops of Oak trees in woods, hedgerows and parks, including in urban areas.