Steven Cheshire's British Butterflies
British Butterflies: Species: Species Account - The Brown Hairstreak:
Brown Hairstreak
Thecla betulae (Linnaeus, 1758)

Brown Hairstreak egg.
  Brown Hairstreak caterpillar.
  Brown Hairstreak chrysalis
Brown Hairstreak
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Insecta: Lepidoptera : Family Lycaenidae: Subfamily Lycaeninae : Genus Thecla: Species betulae:
The adult male Brown Hairstreak lacks the golden orange flashes on the upper-forwings which the female has.

The Brown Hairstreak is a single brooded species being on the wing from late July to early September with the males emerging first. The elusive adults occurs in low numbers over large areas. Males may congregate around a 'master tree' usually an Ash near the breeding colony.

The adults feed primarily on aphid honeydew which coats the leaves of Ash although adults can sometimes be seen feeding on flowers. The females may be found feeding on Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica), Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum) and Brambles (Rubus fructicosus) between periods of egg laying.

The Brown Hairstreak is a Priority Species for conservation due to the continued loss of habitat and resulting drop in population.
Areas of extensive hedgerows or woodland edges where Blackthorn is present in large quantities and where minimal hedgerow damage through mechanical trimming occurs. Mechanical flailing of hedgerows during the autumn months can have a devastating effect on this species with the number of eggs which hatch the following spring being greatly reduced.
The Brown Hairstreak is found in southern (centered around Horsham west Sussex and Salisbury, Wiltshire), south-west England (Devon) and south Wales (centered around Carmarthen) with scattered colonies in Oxfordshire and Worcestershire.
Where to see the Brown Hairstreak in the British Isles
Pembrokeshire: West Williamston
Worcestershire: Grafton Wood, Trench Wood
Somerset: Thurlbear Quarrylands
Oxfordshire: Bernwood Meadows, Whitecross Green Wood, Otmoor
Other notes
A beautiful but often elusive butterfly is best seen on calm warm sunny days in mid to late August. Look around head height on Blackthorn bushes for egg-laying females.
Lifecycle chart
Flight chart
The lifecycle and flight charts should be regarded as approximate guides to the Brown Hairstreak in Britain. Specific lifecycle states, adult emergence and peak flight times vary from year to year due to variations in weather conditions.
IUCN category status 2010 5   IUCN category status 2007 34
Vulnerable Vulnerable

5Fox, R., Warren, M., Brereton, T. M., Roy, D. B. & Robinson, A.
(2010) A new Red List of British Butterflies. Insect Conservation and Diversity.
Vulnerable Vulnerable

3Fox, R., Warren, M & Brereton, T.
(2007) New Red List of British Butterflies. Butterfly Conservation, Wareham.

4More information about IUCN categories.
UK status
Larval foodplants
Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) is the sole larval foodplant of the Brown Hairstreak.

The Brown Hairstreak overwinters as an egg laid of the joint between the new years growth and old wood usually on fresh suckering Blackthorn bushes. They will also lay on more mature hedgerows.

Pupae form underground and are attractive to ant which may tend the pupae within the ants nest.
Butterflies of Britain ID Chart
Your personal guide to British Butterflies. This 8-panel laminated chart is designed for speedy butterfly identification in the field. Ideal for anyone interested in identifying butterflies, perfect for children and adults and ideal for outdoor use, laminated, shower-proof and robust. Get your copy today.
Butterflies of Britain (Laminated ID Chart).
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Visit our online store for many more butterfly related books and gifts.
Population trends 1
UK Population trend 1995-2004 insuficient data
UK Population trend 1976-2004 insuficient data

1Fox, R., Asher. J., Brereton. T., Roy, D & Warren, M. (2006) The State of Butterflies in Britain & Ireland, Pices, Oxford.
UK BAP status 2
UK BAP status candidate priority species (link)

2For information about the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, visit the JNCC web site

National Biodiversity Network Gateway
National Biodiversity Network Gateway Distribution Map

Areas in and indicate a contraction in distribution of the Brown Hairstreak except in Ireland where data is only available up until 1999.

* Records shown in outside the natural distribution may be the result of illegal or accidental releases by breeders or, depending upon the species, migrant individuals from mainland Europe.

Key to map*
= 2000 to 2010 inclusive (current distribution)
= records from 1950 to 1999 inclusive
= records from 1900 to 1949 inclusive
Records prior to 1st January 1900 are not shown.

The NBN Gateway records are shown on the map right. (See terms and conditions).

More data is available on the Brown Hairstreak on the NBN Gateway web site.
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For full details of books and reports mentioned on this web site, view the references page.

Find out more online*
Brown Hairstreak can be found on Peter Eeles excellent UK Butterflies web site.
Brown Hairstreak can be found on Matt Rowlings excellent European Butterflies web site.

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Photographs of the Brown Hairstreak
Image ID BB2323 - Brown Hairstreak - © Steven Cheshire
Brown Hairstreak female (imago)
BB2323 ©
Image ID BB494 - Brown Hairstreak - © Steven Cheshire
Brown Hairstreak female (imago)
BB494 ©
Image ID BB493 - Brown Hairstreak - © Steven Cheshire
Brown Hairstreak female (imago)
BB493 ©
Image ID BB492 - Brown Hairstreak - © Steven Cheshire
Brown Hairstreak female (imago)
BB492 ©
Image ID BB491 - Brown Hairstreak - © Steven Cheshire
Brown Hairstreak female (imago)
BB491 ©
Image ID BB490 - Brown Hairstreak - © Steven Cheshire
Brown Hairstreak female (imago)
BB490 ©
Image ID BB489 - Brown Hairstreak - © Steven Cheshire
Brown Hairstreak female (imago)
BB489 ©
Image ID BB488 - Brown Hairstreak - © Steven Cheshire
Brown Hairstreak female (imago)
BB488 ©
Image ID BB487 - Brown Hairstreak - © Steven Cheshire
Brown Hairstreak female (imago)
BB487 ©
Image ID BB486 - Brown Hairstreak - © Steven Cheshire
Brown Hairstreak female (imago)
BB486 ©
There are 22 photographs of the Brown Hairstreak in our stock photo library.
View more photographs of the Brown Hairstreak as a thumbnail gallery or as a slideshow.
Aberrations and forms
There are 13 named aberrant forms of the Brown Hairstreak currently listed. Find out more about aberrants here.

ab. cuneata - Tutt 1907
ab. lata - Tutt 1907
ab. lineata - Tutt 1907
ab. lutea - Tutt 1907
ab. pallida - Tutt 1896
ab. restricta - Tutt 1907
ab. spinosae - Gerhard 1853
ab. steinbuhleri - Hoffmann 1914
ab. subunicolor - Tutt 1907
ab. uncilinea - Tutt 1907
ab. unicolor - Tutt 1907
ab. unistrigata - Schultz 1909
ab. virgata - Tutt 1907