Black Hairstreak butterfly

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Black Hairstreak butterfly

  • Latin name: Strymonidia pruni
  • Size: Wingspan approximately 32mm.
  • Months seen: June and July.
  • Habitat: Hedgerows, woodland edges and rides.
  • Food: Caterpillars feed on blackthorn.

It is found only in thickets of Blackthorn in woodlands on heavy clay soils, between Oxford and Peterborough in the East Midlands of England. It lives within a very small range and has declined due to changes in woodland management.

The underwings are brown with a tinge of gold and the borders are orange, with a row of black spots, a white streak down each wing and small tails. The upperwings are only ever visible in flight and are brown with an orange patch on each forewing and orange tails on the lower wings.

Scientific classification of Black Hairstreak

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Order: Lepidoptera
  • Family: Lycaenidae
  • Genus: Satyrium
  • Species: S. pruni
  • Binomial name: Satyrium pruni

Hairstreak butterfly identification

Both sexes are similar, and can be easily confused with the White-letter Hairstreak. The main distinguishing feature is the row of black and white tapering spots above the orange band on the underside of the hindwings, and the white ‘W‘ is less pronounced.

Hairstreak Introduction

The Black Hairstreak is one of our rarest butterflies and one of the most recently discovered, due to the similarity with its close cousin, the White-letter Hairstreak. This species was first discovered in the British Isles in 1828 when a Mr. Seaman, an entomological dealer, collected specimens from one of the most famous sites for this species – Monk’s Wood in Cambridgeshire. These were thought to be specimens of the White-letter Hairstreak until Edward Newman, a Victorian entomologist of note, declared them to be Black Hairstreak.

Black Hairstreak Habitat

Black Hairstreak colonies are typically located in small woods or nearby hedgerows, where Blackthorn, the larval foodplant grows. Wild Plum is also used occasionally. Sites are located in sheltered but sunny positions and typically have a southerly aspect to them.


This small brown butterfly is very similar to the white-letter hairstreak but the black hairstreak has a row of orange spots along the edge of the upper-side hindwing. In the female these spots also extend to the forewings. The undersides are similar to the white-letter but the white line tends to be straighter and the orange border extends onto the forewings.

The most conclusive way to distinguish the two is by the row of black spots accompanying the orange band which the white-letter hairstreak never has. They spend most of their lives in the canopy or in dense scrub, feeding on honeydew, and very rarely come down to ground level

Black Hairstreak Size and Family

  • Family: Hairstreaks
  • Size: Small/Medium
  • Wing Span Range (male to female): 37mm

Conservation Status

  • Butterfly Conservation priority: High
  • Protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (for sale only)
  • A regional priority in East Midlands, East of England and South East England.

Caterpillar Foodplants

Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) is almost exclusively used, but occasionally Wild Plum (P. domestica) and other Prunus species are used.

Also More: Adonis Blue butterfly

Black Hairstreak images

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