I’ve always thought that “Common Blue” is not the right name. This butterfly is an absolute jewel. It isn’t all that common either – widespread, maybe, but numbers have suffered in recent years. The Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) is just beautiful as it flits along the meadows, verges and wastelands in search of both nectar sources and foodplants for caterpillars – plants which include birdsfoot trefoil, white clover, black medick, thistles and knapweed, all of which we have in plentiful numbers in Betty’s Wood, as well as in our main clearing in the ancient wood.
They have more than one generation a year. Last year was poor for Common Blues, and we only spotted one or two of the first generation in our meadow. Thankfully, the second generation has now emerged in good numbers. The second generation, in particular, is spectacular. I think this is because of the contrast of colours: the yellows, browns, oranges of the drying and maturing grass and seeds and that stunning flash of blue from the wings of the male. Complementary colours really do their best to set each other off.
The upper wings are beautiful, but I think the lovely little dainty spotted underwings with their flash of orange are the real treat. Last night, all the male Common Blues had gathered in a small part of the meadow, in an area sheltered from the wind and catching the evening sunshine. They were perched head-down, in typical fashion, high up on the grass stems and rubbing their wings to release the pheromones, presumably to attract the ladies. I didn’t see any females, just 8 to 10 males sitting within a few feet of each other at the top of the grass.
I managed to catch a number of photos of these stunning little jewels of the grass. I hope this lovely little butterfly will carry on coming to our meadow for many years to come – we are certainly doing all we can to encourage it. It is a real pleasure and delight to behold.