Green Hairstreak Butterfly, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

In what might become an occasional series, I’ve been encouraged by Brian at Butterflies to Dragsters to post some pictures of the various butterflies that I capture (outside of my walks) – starting with Green Hairstreaks that I photographed yesterday afternoon.

It was a warmish but breezy day, so I wasn’t too hopeful of seeing many on the wing but, hey, if you don’t go and look, you don’t find out… And often that leads to the best surprises.

I said to Jude that I’d only be about 20 to 30 minutes and I wandered up the small road which winds its way up to a dead end and the woods behind our group of chalets. Although there is nothing really to attract these wonderful little creatures, each of the 5 corners seems to be a magnet. And it was on the second corner that I took these photos – some on the way up and some on my return. Closer inspection reveals that they are all different (if we assume that the spots on opposite sides are equal).

As you may know, I like to educate as well as entertain, so…

Green hairstreaks or Callophrys rubi can be found all across Europe – even as far north as the Arctic and west to Siberia. So, I guess Switzerland is considered ‘warm’ by those standards! Though for some reason they are not present on the Outer Hebrides, the Orkneys or Shetlands, nor Crete for that matter. My book also says that they are one of the earlier species to take flight – that being between March and June. They are quite small, being only 15mm (0.6 inches) across, but they have adapted to quite a range of habitats, including scrubland and rocky places. That maybe explains why they are on the corner of our road, where a pile of (albeit rather nice) stones has been dumped by the local Commune workers. (I should have taken a picture – it’s delightful!)

I also got a little bit excited when I saw the line of white dots on the forewing of the 3rd photo – as there’s a variant called Chapman’s Green Hairstreak, which has that characteristic. However, it seems Chapman’s also have a rusty orange eye ring (not white), the inside of the antennae clubs is also rusty orange (not black), it has brown and white striped legs (not black and white) and the line of dots is generally further out than the hindwing. And, apart from all that, the nearest they ever get to here is the south of France. But a man can hope. 😊

Note that I normally shrink all my photos to around 250 to 300kb but these pictures have just been cropped and watermarked. Hopefully the extra quality shines through!?

19 thoughts on “Green Hairstreak Butterfly, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

    • Well, I’d almost dismissed that picture as it was ‘into the sun’ and you could hardly see the colour. But those extra spots attracted my attention after reading about Chapman’s. I didn’t know aberrations also had their own names. I can see I’ll have to take even more interest in this topic! Thanks Brian.

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    • Thanks Karen. Apparently they are there in Scotland, (not that I’ve ever seen them there either) but they are a little hard to spot. Apart from being quite small (no bigger than your thumbnail when the wings are closed – as they always are on landing) the upper side (I forgot to say) is a dark brown and so the brown-green-brown in flight makes it difficult to follow them. And then they land suddenly, fold up their wings and, if it’s on or near any green leaves, they blend in. They are also quite feisty as a much larger butterfly came along and it was chased off.
      That’s one of the really annoying things about butterfly photography – you’re just getting them lined up and another comes along and the one your targeting takes off and they start battling it out for supremacy – often flying high into the air and then disappearing. I’ve found though, if you wait they often return. But usually I haven’t the patience!

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  1. Pingback: Green Meanies and other Wiveton Beauties – Butterflies To Dragsters

  2. What a treat to see your Green Hairstreak Butterflies here, Mike. What a gorgeous butterfly you found to highlight. Terrific photos demonstrating all the wonderful markings. I espec. like those psychedelic antennae. With the glory of your Alps butterflies, it is no wonder that Nabokov, a world-renown lepidopterist (and famous novelist), was so enthralled with the butterflies in the Alps.

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    • Thank you Jet for your wonderful comment. They are (almost) unique, in being green on the underside, (you’d think more might want to blend in like that wouldn’t you?) and they can be seen all across Europe at this time of year, but then by the end on June that’s more or less it, they’re gone! They obviously don’t like the ‘heat’ of the European summer!

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  3. We saw the Green Hairstreak last weekend on Salthouse Heath, just a little bit away from our village. It’s the only green butterfly in the Britain. We saw it at the edge of the heath. We had sunny warm weater with a little wind from the sea.
    Thanks for sharing
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

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    • Thank you Anne. I’ve developed a stealth-like technique which seems to work, though not all the time. I can get as close as 2 to 3″ from the butterfly with the camera (often at arms length). The season hasn’t yet reached its peak yet though. The flowers are still 2 to 3 weeks behind.

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