Purple Hairstreak (Favonius quercus)

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2016 photographs highlighted in green. Click on any photograph to go to an enlarged picture, or simply scroll down the page.

04_44-04_female_Var_20Jul04 25946_female?_Var_25Jun11 17082_female_Alpes-Maritimes_03Jul09

This butterfly is increasingly believed to be more common than previously thought, and probably quite common. In fact, I have even heard it suggested that it is one of the commonest butterflies in England. It is often missed as it spends much of its time high in the treetops and is most active in late afternoon and early evening when it can be seen (best with binoculars) engaging in aerial skirmishes high in the canopy. In one locality I happened to chance on an area of low shaded shrubbery alongside a dried up river bed in the heat of the afternoon and found I had disturbed a number of quercus that were presumably escaping the heat. In 2009 I chanced upon a low tree in which ten or more were resting in the shade in mid-morning, difficult to spot as they were so inactive. In September 2012, after a very dry summer, a number of quercus came down in the morning take moisture (and salts?) from the damp earth of a dried up river bed. 

However, as they spend most of their time in the canopy of Oak trees (Quercus pubescens, Q. petraea, Q. ilex) (the larval hostplant), any opportunity for photography is welcome. They feed on aphid secretions ("honeydew") and rarely take nectar from flowers or salts/moisture from the ground. In 2015 I tried the bait of diluted honey on low bushes to see if I could tempt them down, but no joy. A week later, cleaning the patio with bleach, one came down to taste the water that had been used to wash the bleach away!


The male has extensive purple on both upperside wings and the female has reduced purple patches, mainly in the basal area of the upf. The undersides of both sexes are very similar although H&R says that the unh marginal markings are more distinct in the female. It infrequently settles with wings open, which is a shame. Quercus is not dissimilar to the Spanish Purple Hairstreak (Laeosopis roboris) in this respect.


This species was previously known as Neozephyrus quercus.

ref sex


alt. m
04_44-04 F

a female with limited blue/purple in the basal area of the upf, the male having a more extensive blue/purple patch extending to the margins.

25946 F? possibly a female based on the distinctive marginal marks, but I am not sure how reliable this is as an indicator of the sexes. 450
17082 F

maybe the slightly more distinct marginal marks suggest female. On studying the magnified image, the end of the foreleg appears to be articulated and identical to the mid-leg and hind-leg and not hooked, which confirms that this is a female.