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Butterflies of temperate Asia
Green Hairstreak
Callophrys rubi  LINNAEUS, 1758
Family - LYCAENIDAE
subfamily - THECLINAE
Tribe - EUMAEINI
Callophrys rubi Adrian Hoskins
Introduction
There are about 30 Callophrys species, of which 10 are found in temperate Asia. Additionally there are 25 species in North America and one which is found only in Spain and North Africa.
The Green Hairstreak never displays it's brown upperside except when in flight. The green colour of the underside ( like the blues and coppers of other Lycaenids ) is produced by light refracting and reflecting from a microscopic lattice within translucent wing scales. The iridescent colouring varies in hue according to the directional qualities of the light and the angle of view. The butterfly can thus appear to be metallic apple-green, turquoise or emerald, when viewed from various angles.
Some individuals known as form caecus have plain undersides, but on others the wings are marked with a row of white dots, often edged with reddish - these are called form punctata.
The sexes are almost identical, but the male has a small patch of scent scales in the discal cell of the upperside forewing. This is also visible in certain lighting conditions in the form of a little raised pad in the cell on the underside.
Callophrys rubi is widely distributed in Europe and across temperate Asia to Siberia.
Habitats
This species can be found in a wide variety of habitats including calcareous grassland, woodland clearings, heaths and moorland, sand dunes, coastal habitats and mountainsides.
Lifecycle
Females roam widely over their habitat, laying their eggs singly on the leaves or flower buds of the various foodplants, including bird's foot trefoil Lotus corniculatus, common rockrose Helianthemum chamaecistus, dogwood Cornus sanguinea, buckthorn Rhamnus catharticus, gorse Ulex europaeus, and broom Cytisus scoparius. On moorlands and heaths the main foodplant is bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus, and in woodlands bramble Rubus fruticosus is commonly used.
Like other Lycaenid larvae, that of the Green Hairstreak is plump, like a woodlouse. It is green, and marked with rows of yellow dots on the back and sides. The larva feeds on the flower buds, flowers or tender young leaves of common rockrose, gorse, bilberry, bird's foot trefoil, dogwood, broom and various vetches. At some sites the larvae feed on buckthorn berries, in which they make a hole through which they extract the contents.
The larva leaves the foodplant to pupate just under the surface of the ground, often where there are stones or fallen leaves. The pupa has the ability to produce a squeaking noise - this was once thought to be a defence mechanism against ants and beetles, but research on other Lycaenids that also share this behaviour suggest that the pupa is actually "singing" to attract the attention of ants, which carry it into their nests below the ground. The pupa secretes a sugary coating which the ants drink, and in exchange the pupa gains protection from other insects that would not dare enter the ants nest.
Adult behaviour
Males and females behave quite differently. Males establish territories, typically perching on gorse flowers, or on the foliage of hawthorn, blackthorn, elder, privet and various other bushes, often at the bottom of hills. On sunny mornings they use these perches as vantage points from which they dart up to intercept other small insects, including bees, flies, and various butterfly species, as well as other Green Hairstreaks.

When perching they regulate their body temperature by tilting their wings - in cooler conditions they are angled to present the maximum wing area to the sun but in hot conditions they are angled edge on to minimise heat absorption. This lateral-basking technique has the additional advantage that the wings cast no give-away shadows, helping the already superbly camouflaged butterfly to blend even more perfectly against its background and avoid being detected by predators.

Often several males will have overlapping territories, so male-male encounters are frequent. When males meet, they engage in a frenzied battle, zipping about in tight circles, each trying to outwit and outmanoeuvre the other with constant changes of direction. Each male changes his territory several times throughout the day in response to the changing position of the sun which causes each perch to become shaded at some stage. Thus the butterflies frequently find themselves intruding into each other's territories and often both males believe they have "ownership" of a particular spot. At such times their battles can be protracted and intense. The pair will commonly spiral rapidly to a height of about 4 metres, then break away. Invariably however they soon meet again and continue the battle which may last for several minutes. During this time they may chase each other up to 4 or 5 metres horizontally from the point where the conflict began. Eventually the weaker male gives up and leaves the vicinity, and the victor returns to his original perch.

Females spend most of their time fluttering inconspicuously just above the ground in search of egg-laying sites, and are seen far less often than the males.

Both sexes nectar at a wide range of spring flowers including bird's foot trefoil, horseshoe vetch, common vetch, gorse, common rock rose, elder, holly, wayfaring tree, bluebells, cowslip, wood forget-me-not, dandelion, daisy and hawthorn.

Callophrys rubi Adrian Hoskins
 

 

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