Steven Cheshire's British Butterflies
British Butterflies: Species: Species Account - The Purple Hairstreak:
Purple Hairstreak
Neozephyrus quercus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Purple Hairstreak egg.
  Purple Hairstreak caterpillar.
  Purple Hairstreak chrysalis
Purple Hairstreak
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Insecta: Lepidoptera : Family Lycaenidae: Subfamily Lycaeninae : Genus Neozephyrus: Species quercus:
The larvae hatch from eggs laid the previous year. The larvae eat part of the egg shell and then burrow into the young Oak flower/leaf buds until its 2nd instar.

Pupation can take place on the ground where Red Ants (Myrmica ruginodis) tend the larvae although this is not an essential requirement. Alternatively pupae may also be found in a crevice on a large Oak branch or beneath a few strands of silk on top of a leaf.

The caterpillar is dark red-brown and has a darker brown line along its back and paler oblique line along each side. It is very difficult to find due to its resemblance with a brown leaf-flower bud.

There is one brood per year which can be seen from the beginning of July through to mid September.

Although this butterfly is described as being quite common in favorable locations because of its habit of living high in the tree canopy, it is rarely encountered. You will sometimes see this butterfly feeding on honeydew deposited by aphids lower down, especially during long hot summers.
Living in self-contained colonies the Purple Hairstreak is found in woodland where Oak trees occur. It is also possible for a single Oak tree with no other woodland around to support a small colony. Disused railway lines where semi-mature Oaks exist can also support a small colony.
Most of England and Wales and parts of Southern Scotland.
Where to see the Purple Hairstreak in the British Isles
Other notes
Lifecycle chart
Flight chart
The lifecycle and flight charts should be regarded as approximate guides to the Purple Hairstreak in Britain. Specific lifecycle states, adult emergence and peak flight times vary from year to year due to variations in weather conditions.
IUCN category status 2010 5   IUCN category status 2007 34
--awaiting data-- --awaiting data--

5Fox, R., Warren, M., Brereton, T. M., Roy, D. B. & Robinson, A.
(2010) A new Red List of British Butterflies. Insect Conservation and Diversity.
Least Concern Least Concern

3Fox, R., Warren, M & Brereton, T.
(2007) New Red List of British Butterflies. Butterfly Conservation, Wareham.

4More information about IUCN categories.
UK status
Larval foodplants
Oak (Quercus sp.) is the only food source for the larvae of the Purple Hairstreak.
Butterflies of Britain ID Chart
Your personal guide to British Butterflies. This 8-panel laminated chart is designed for speedy butterfly identification in the field. Ideal for anyone interested in identifying butterflies, perfect for children and adults and ideal for outdoor use, laminated, shower-proof and robust. Get your copy today.
Butterflies of Britain (Laminated ID Chart).
Online store
Visit our online store for many more butterfly related books and gifts.
Population trends 1
UK Population trend 1995-2004 down by -23%
UK Population trend 1976-2004 up by 53%

1Fox, R., Asher. J., Brereton. T., Roy, D & Warren, M. (2006) The State of Butterflies in Britain & Ireland, Pices, Oxford.
UK BAP status 2
UK BAP status not listed (link)

2For information about the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, visit the JNCC web site

National Biodiversity Network Gateway
National Biodiversity Network Gateway Distribution Map

Areas in and indicate a contraction in distribution of the Purple Hairstreak except in Ireland where data is only available up until 1999.

* Records shown in outside the natural distribution may be the result of illegal or accidental releases by breeders or, depending upon the species, migrant individuals from mainland Europe.

Key to map*
= 2000 to 2010 inclusive (current distribution)
= records from 1950 to 1999 inclusive
= records from 1900 to 1949 inclusive
Records prior to 1st January 1900 are not shown.

The NBN Gateway records are shown on the map right. (See terms and conditions).

More data is available on the Purple Hairstreak on the NBN Gateway web site.
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For full details of books and reports mentioned on this web site, view the references page.

Find out more online*
Purple Hairstreak can be found on Peter Eeles excellent UK Butterflies web site.
Purple Hairstreak can be found on Matt Rowlings excellent European Butterflies web site.

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Photographs of the Purple Hairstreak
Image ID BB1879 - Purple Hairstreak - © Steven Cheshire
Purple Hairstreak female (imago)
BB1879 ©
Image ID BB1878 - Purple Hairstreak - © Steven Cheshire
Purple Hairstreak female (imago)
BB1878 ©
Image ID BB1877 - Purple Hairstreak - © Steven Cheshire
Purple Hairstreak female (imago)
BB1877 ©
Image ID BB1876 - Purple Hairstreak - © Steven Cheshire
Purple Hairstreak female (imago)
BB1876 ©
Image ID BB1815 - Purple Hairstreak - © Steven Cheshire
Purple Hairstreak female (imago)
BB1815 ©
Image ID BB987 - Purple Hairstreak - © Steven Cheshire
Purple Hairstreak unknown (imago)
BB987 ©
Image ID BB986 - Purple Hairstreak - © Steven Cheshire
Purple Hairstreak female (imago)
BB986 ©
Image ID BB469 - Purple Hairstreak - © Steven Cheshire
Purple Hairstreak male (imago)
BB469 ©
Image ID BB468 - Purple Hairstreak - © Steven Cheshire
Purple Hairstreak male (imago)
BB468 ©
Image ID BB467 - Purple Hairstreak - © Steven Cheshire
Purple Hairstreak male (imago)
BB467 ©
There are 10 photographs of the Purple Hairstreak in our stock photo library.
View more photographs of the Purple Hairstreak as a thumbnail gallery or as a slideshow.
Aberrations and forms
There are 8 named aberrant forms of the Purple Hairstreak currently listed. Find out more about aberrants here.

ab. aurantia-excessa - Tutt 1907
ab. caerulescens - Lempke 1936
ab. depuncta - Lempke 1956
ab. flavimaculatus - Lienard 1850
ab. infraobscura - Goodson 1966
ab. latefasciata - Courvoisier 1903
ab. minor - Tutt 1907
ab. obsoleta - Tutt 1907