Duke of Burgundy (Hamearis lucina)
Male. Taken at Ivinghoe Beacon, Bucks, on May 16th 2015.
(1/200th sec at f11. Approx 3x lifesize)
Male underside. Taken at Ivinghoe Beacon, Bucks, on May 16th 2015.
(1/125th sec at f11. Approx 3x lifesize)
Mating pair. Taken at Rodborough Common, Glos., on May 8th 2016.
(1/1600th sec at f8. Approx 3x lifesize)
© David Hastings
DescriptionWing span: 29 - 34 mm
The Duke of Burgundy is the sole British representative of a subfamily known as the "metalmarks", since some of its relatives have a metallic appearance. A characteristic of this subfamily is that females have six fully-functional legs, whereas males only have four, with the forelegs being greatly reduced.
It is found mainly in central southern England, although scattered colonies are found elsewhere such as in the north of England in Cumbria and east Yorkshire. Although some relatively large colonies exist, most only contain around a dozen individuals at the peak of the flight season.
At one time most colonies of this species lived in woodland, where it bred on Primroses which grew in clearings that had been coppiced. With the decline in coppicing, most colonies are now found on scrubby downland where Cowslips are used as the food plant.
There is one brood each year, with the adults usually emerging at the end of April in southern sites, peaking in the middle of May. A partial second brood may appear in some years on sites in the south of England. The pupa is the over-wintering stage.
The primary larval foodplants are Cowslip (Primula veris) and Primrose (Primula vulgaris). False Oxlip (Primula veris x vulgaris) is also used. Adults feed primarily on Tormentil. Bugle, Buttercups, Hawthorns and Wood Spurge are also used.
Males are very territorial, perching on a particular shrub in order to look for females or intruding males. When two males meet they engage in a spiral flight upwards for several feet before separating.
This species is listed as Endangered in the latest Red List of British Butterflies (PDF).