Rare butterfly discovered in County Kildare

A butterfly last recorded in County Kildare pre-1941 has been discovered in Leixlip, County Kildare by Butterfly Conservation Ireland member Eddie Gilligan. The Purple Hairstreak, confined to oak woods is rarely seen in Ireland because it spends almost its entire adult life in the oak trees, usually high in the canopy. The old record for Kildare was for the Athy area and was phrased vaguely, raising considerable doubt about its accuracy.

However, Eddie saw the butterfly using binoculars, obtaining a clear view of the distinctive undersides.

The species is recorded mainly in scattered locations in Ireland. The pattern of records probably reflects recorder activity as well as the scarcity of oak woodland. Any records are gratefully received at conservation.butterfly@gmail.com. For the details of a record that we need, see https://butterflyconservation.ie/wp/records/

One tip if searching for Purple Hairstreak is to check the sunny side of oaks from 5 pm to 7 pm when activity levels peak. The butterflies may then be seen darting about high in the canopy. It will often look silvery in the evening light, like a handful of silver coins tossed in the sunlight!

Purple Hairstreak underside. This specimen is a female but the underside is similar in both sexes. © J.Harding.