The earlier pictures were taken on my wee compact Canon ixus 970IS, which involved sneaking up on the butterflies. This can be very frustrating when they fly off, but very rewarding when they don't!

Since 2012 I have been using a Panasonic Lumix FZ150, which allows me to zoom in to the butterflies from a couple of metres away.



Thursday, 6 June 2013

Small Blue butterflies - Cupido minimus

Late May and early June are normally a quite time for butterflies in this part of Scotland. Between April and May we see the butterflies that have hibernated as adults and reappeared when the temperatures warm up. We also see the first of the new species for the year. Here that consists of four species of white butterflies and more recently Speckled Woods and Wall Browns have moved into the area.
Normally, by the beginning of June, these spring butterflies reduce in numbers and there isn't much to see, but this year, having had such a cold spring there are still a few white butterflies on the wing.
My usual antidote to this quite spell is to take a trip down to a small location in the Scottish Borders where there is a colony of Small Blue butterflies, Cupido minimus. This is the UK's smallest species, having a wingspan of only about 16 to 20mm. Their upper wings are often described as dull brown with a silver underside. Personally, I find these butterflies far from dull!

The males have a scattering of blues scales on the upper wings.



Small Blues occur in a few different locations around the UK. They are mostly found in the south of England and the south of Wales. There are also scattered colonies on the east coast of Scotland. Because many of these colonies are isolated they are vulnerable to land use changes. The colony I visit in the Scottish Borders, like many, is on a coastal slope covering an area about 50 metres by 25 metres. This year I was delighted to hear that they have also spread to a small valley a little further along the coast.


I had a look in both areas and estimate that I saw about 60 individual butterflies. It is great to know that while most species are suffering from the terrible summer last year and cold spring this year, the Small Blues are doing very well.

Because of their colour and small size they are quite difficult to spot, so I was delighted to find this couple hiding in the grass.


Eggs are laid on Kidney Vetch, Anthyllis vulneraria, and the caterpillars feed on the flower heads. Kidney vetch likes alkaline conditions and grow on poor soils where it won't be smothered by more vigorous vegetation. 




This Small Blue is feeding on Birds Foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus, which gives an idea of how small the butterfly is.

I have previously posted about Small Blues but I love these butterflies so much I couldn't resist mentioning them again!!

3 comments:

  1. Wow these are great shots, and you caught them mating!

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  2. Hello Nick:) All the blue butterflies are so pretty. I love your photos of these dainty small blues, I'm glad they are doing so well where you are.

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  3. What a beautiful place to seek out butterflies. I love your tiny blues! They are similar to our Spring and Summer Azures but ours have a sky blue inside. Lovely photos Nick!

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