Large Blue

You might be tempted to think this is just a shot of a Blue butterfly but you wouldn't be further from the truth. In fact this the shot I've been waiting for for years!! 

Very rare, elusive and enigmatic, this is the Large Blue Maculinea arion butterfly and it's here in Gloucestershire. Not easy to find - it took me five hours to find this, having searched most years time and time again and never found it. I've never seen one before and I wasn't on my own searching, as cameras were out up on the hillside because it is only around for about four weeks, lives only five days and is so wonderfully rare.

The upperwings of both sexes have broad black borders with 4-6 black spots on the forewings. It was beautifully sunny today and because of that  the wings were kept firmly shut except for flight. 

It has a remarkable life cycle:  The caterpillar is carried down into the red ant nest from the wild thyme where the egg is laid and lives 10 months underground feeding on ant grubs. The chrysalis is pale brown and lives in the chambers of the host ant nest. It follows that you will only find Large Blues,  wild thyme and red ants together for a successful outcome. Fascinating little butterfly!

By the early 1900's it had been reduced to only three areas in Britain and became extinct in Britain in 1979. Since then it has been successfully re-established with a near identical race from Sweden in three sites on Dartmoor, the Cornish coast and here in the Cotswolds.  

What a treat!

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