Provence Hairstreak (Tomares ballus)

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2018 photographs highlighted in green. Click on any photograph to go to an enlarged picture, or simply scroll down the page.

19758_male_Var_19Apr10 24097_male_Var_16Apr11 24113_male_Var_16Apr11
31893_male_Var_25Apr13 34453_male_Var_13Apr14 36912_male_Var_16Apr15
40064_male_Var_11Apr16 45069_male_Var_17Apr18 9864_female?_Var_21Apr08
36887_female_Var_15Apr15 14526_female_Var_14Apr09 19553_female_Var_14Apr10
14499_female_Var_13Apr09 28612_female_Var_18Apr12 42341_female_Var_11Apr17
42368_female_Var_11Apr17 42378_female_Var_11Apr17 14500_ovum_Var_13Apr09

This is a butterfly of the southern Iberian peninsula with a very localised presence in Var. It broadly has the unf of a Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) and the unh of a Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi) and never settles with open wings. It has a very early flight season from late March to the end of April. 2007 seemed to be an early season and I saw one individual (the first ever), and it was quite worn even on 19 April. In 2008 I revisited the same site and found at least two individuals, and the same in 2009, plus I found several spread over a wide area at another site. Since then, another two locations have been identified, and by 2012 the total had risen to six known sites in eastern Var.

 

It is noticeably hairy, quite strange for a species that occurs only in very hot climates.

T&L shows the female upperside as being largely bright orange, the male as a consistent darkish brown, and the female as being rather larger than the male. I first saw females for certain in 2009 and they were clearly lighter in flight, the orangeness of the uppersides being apparent if not clearly visible. In recent years, on knowing where to look, I have seen female ballus egg-laying on what seems to be the preferred larval hostplant, Dorycnium hirsutum, on several occasions. 

It is also noticeable that the hindwing is a bright yellow-green (only really apparent in 14526) when fresh but upon ageing, loses the yellow tinge and takes on a bluish hue.

A superb video of the life-cycle of ballus has been produced by Filming VarWild and can be viewed on YouTube here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJs9sb4C6TI&feature=c4-overview-vl&list=PLLIrjN9bA2GzCdEV0j2IFQU55FNxoJsGT

ref sex

observations

alt. m
19758 M

a male, I believe, a highly territorial pose.

220
24097 M a rather aged male, hence the bluish tinge to the unh. 185
24113 M possibly the same individual as 24097. 185
31893 M a male, still rather green considering it was at the end of the flight period, despite the lateness of the 2013 spring. 140
34453 M a male, I believe. It has some degree of wear and is rather bluish, rather than the yellow-green of fresher specimens. 220
36912 M a rather dusky male. 140
40064 M a male, reasonably fresh but the green colour is starting to turn bluish. 220
45069 M a male. My arrival each year in Var is in the second week of April which usually means that I am seeing ballus when it is slightly past its freshest. However, 2018 was a very late year and so I was fortunate that the ballus were still quite fresh even in mid-April and 45069 is a very good example of the yellow-green colour of this species when fresh. 220
9864 M

this may be a female based on its pose and where it is i.e. in the undergrowth. The slight pointedness of the forewing tip may be a pointer to female, judging by the illustration in T&L. On studying the magnified image, the end of the foreleg appears to be hooked, which confirms that this is a male.

220
36887 F? a female on what appears to be low lying D. hirsutum. 220
14526 F

could possibly be considered a male, based on its pose and its behaviour at the time. 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. It appears to be quite fresh, judging from the yellowness of the unh.

220
19553 F

possibly a female, largely based on its behaviour at the time, and possibly also the rounded shape of the hindwing at the anal angle. The forewing apex is not pointed as I would expect for a female (see 14499), though. 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.

140
14499 F

clearly a female, as it is egg-laying. The forewing appears quite pointed and the forewing costa slightly convex at the apex, so maybe this feature is a semi-reliable clue to the sex. I am puzzled as the plant it is laying on; Lafranchis gives several larval hostplants (of genus Anthyllis, Medicago, Hippocrepis, Onobrychis, Dorycnium, Lotus),  all of which are low-lying, but the plant in 14499 and 14500 does not appear to be any of those listed and does not appear to be low-lying. I have not yet been able to identify this plant, so any help here would be welcome.

140
28612 F a female that had been egg-laying on what I believe is D. hirsutum. 220
42341 F a female, slightly fresher than most on this page, egg-laying on D. hirsutum. 220
42368 F I had recorded 42368 as ballus at the time, maybe on the grounds of its behaviour. 220
42378 F 42378 was behaving very oddly, flying very little and remaining motionless for quite long periods. It was only on studying the photograph that it appeared that the end of the antennal club was missing, perhaps cut off during an attack by a predator. Either way, it would explain the strange behaviour. 220
14500 ovum

an ovum, not necessarily the one laid by 14499.

140

 

19758_male_Var_19Apr10

 

24097_male_Var_16Apr11

 

24113_male_Var_16Apr11

 

31893_male_Var_25Apr13

 

34453_male_Var_13Apr14

 

36912_male_Var_16Apr15

 

40064_male_Var_11Apr16

 

45069_male_Var_17Apr18

 

9864_female?_Var_21Apr08

 

36887_female_Var_15Apr15

 

14526_female_Var_14Apr09

 

19553_female_Var_14Apr10

 

14499_female_Var_13Apr09

 

28612_female_Var_18Apr12

 

42341_female_Var_11Apr17

 

42368_female_Var_11Apr17

 

42378_female_Var_11Apr17

 

14500_ovum_Var_13Apr09