Steven Cheshire's British Butterflies
British Butterflies: Species: Species Account - The Small Blue:
Small Blue
Cupido minimus (Fuessly, 1775)

Small Blue egg.
ova
  Small Blue caterpillar.
larva
  Small Blue chrysalis
pupa
Small Blue
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Nomenclature
Insecta: Lepidoptera : Family Lycaenidae: Subfamily Lycaeninae : Genus Cupido: Species minimus:
Description
Also known as the 'Little Blue' the Small Blue is the smallest native British Butterfly and is easily overlooked. The upper wings of this tiny butterfly tend to be a dusky brown fringed with white with a sheen of blue scales radiating out from the body. Its undersides are a dull blue-gray colour with small dark spots again with a hint of blue extending from the body.

Males are highly territorial selecting a prominent perch in a sheltered position. The females tend to disperse to lay eggs on the buds and flowers of the larval food plant Kidney Vetch. Males and females are easily found in communal roosts during the early evening as the sun begins to set.

The Small Blue is a Priority Species for conservation due to the continued loss of habitat and resulting drop in population.
Habitat
The main requirements of the Small Blue are dry sheltered areas of grassland where Kidney Vetch grows. Sites must have sparse or eroding vegetation with bare ground where Kidney Vetch seedlings can become established and where flowering Kidney Vetch is abundant.

The Small Blue is best looked for on chalk and limestone grassland coastal grassland sand dunes, quarries, gravel pits, and disused railways.
Distribution
The Small Blue tends to live in small colonies restricted to small patches of sheltered grassland where Kidney Vetch the larval food plant is found and is declining in most areas. In Scotland the Small Blue is in decline, particularly in southern Scotland. Strongholds remain along the Angus coast and the Moray Firth.
Where to see the Small Blue in the British Isles
Warwickshire: Southam Quarry
Gloucestershire: Prestbury Hill
Isle of Wight: Compton Down
Other notes
Lifecycle chart
larvaelarvaelarvaelarvaepupapupaadultadultovaovalarvaelarvaepupaadultlarvaelarvaelarvaelarvae
 
Flight chart
JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember
The lifecycle and flight charts should be regarded as approximate guides to the Small Blue 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
--awaiting data-- --awaiting data--

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

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

4More information about IUCN categories.
Wingspan
18-27mm
UK status
Resident
Larval foodplants
Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria) is sole larval food plant of the Small Blue.
The larvae live in the flower heads where they feed on the developing seeds.
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).
Online store
Visit our online store for many more butterfly related books and gifts.
Population trends 1
UK Population trend 1995-2004 up by 121%
UK Population trend 1976-2004 down by -6%

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 jncc.defra.gov.uk.

National Biodiversity Network Gateway
National Biodiversity Network Gateway Distribution Map



Areas in and indicate a contraction in distribution of the Small Blue 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 Small Blue on the NBN Gateway web site.
Powered by NBN Gateway.
References
For full details of books and reports mentioned on this web site, view the references page.

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

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Photographs of the Small Blue
Image ID BB2055 - Small Blue - © Steven Cheshire
Small Blue (imago)
BB2055 ©
Image ID BB2054 - Small Blue - © Steven Cheshire
Small Blue (imago)
BB2054 ©
Image ID BB2053 - Small Blue - © Steven Cheshire
Small Blue (imago)
BB2053 ©
Image ID BB2052 - Small Blue - © Steven Cheshire
Small Blue (imago)
BB2052 ©
Image ID BB2051 - Small Blue - © Steven Cheshire
Small Blue (imago)
BB2051 ©
Image ID BB1565 - Small Blue - © Steven Cheshire
Small Blue (imago)
BB1565 ©
Image ID BB1529 - Small Blue - © Steven Cheshire
Small Blue male (imago)
BB1529 ©
Image ID BB361 - Small Blue - © Steven Cheshire
Small Blue unknown (imago)
BB361 ©
Image ID BB337 - Small Blue - © Steven Cheshire
Small Blue unknown (imago)
BB337 ©
Image ID BB336 - Small Blue - © Steven Cheshire
Small Blue unknown (imago)
BB336 ©
There are 17 photographs of the Small Blue in our stock photo library.
View more photographs of the Small Blue as a thumbnail gallery or as a slideshow.
Aberrations and forms
There are 8 named aberrant forms of the Small Blue currently listed. Find out more about aberrants here.

ab. caeca - Courvoisier 1907
ab. magnipuncta - Tutt 1908
ab. multistriata - Howarth 1973
ab. obsoleta - Tutt 1896
ab. pallida - Tutt 1896
ab. semiobsoleta - Tutt 1908
ab. striata - Tutt 1908
ab. violascens - Tutt 1908