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Provence Hairstreak butterfly - Tomares ballus

Phylum: Arthropoda - Class: Insecta - Order: Lepidoptera - Family: Lycaenidae

Provence Hairstreak butterfly

The Provence Hairstreak is a most distinctive butterfly, but unfortunately it is not easy to find even in the Mediterranean countries where it is known to be reasonably plentiful.

Description

Male Provence Hairstreaks are dark brown above, while the females have large patches of metallic orange on both wings. For males and females, the underside hindwings are a most striking green colour and noticeably hairy on young adults, but the colour gradually changes to blue-green with age.

Provence Hairstreak butterfly, underwing

The wingspan of the Provencal Hairstreak is typically 2.5cm.

Distribution

The Provence Hairstreak is not a British species. Its rather restricted range includes parts of southern France, the Iberian Peninsula and a broad strip of northern Africa.

Habitat

This is a butterfly of dry grassy areas and wildflower meadows, where its low flight can make the Provencal Hairstreak difficult to follow.

Lifecycle

This is a single-brood species and can sometimes be seen on the wing as early as January in southern Portugal and Spain, although February to April are its main flight months; the flight period extends into May in southern France.

Eggs are laid singly on the leaves of the foodplant - mainly Medick (Medicago spp.). The caterpillars have an association with ants, which are thought to protect them - a behavioural characteristic shared with other Lycaenid butterflies. Hybernating as pupae, Provence Hairstreaks emerge early in the year and can sometimes be seen warming themselves in the morning sunshine following a cold spring night.

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