First Purple Hairstreak butterfly recorded in South Lanarkshire for 175 years

The Purple Hairstreak butterfly, which depends on oak trees for its survival, has been recorded in South Lanarkshire for the first time since 1845.

The small butterfly is known for its tell-tale purple colouring on their black upper wings and seems to be increasing in distribution. It is mostly found in England and Wales, though there has been an increase in sightings in parts of Scotland recently, and this sighting in South Lanarkshire is an exciting find.

Tam Stewart, volunteer butterfly recorder for the charity Butterfly Conservation Scotland for South Lanarkshire and Glasgow City said: “A discussion with a friend about our historical records prompted me to search for Purple Hairstreak, at South Haugh in Hamilton. It was a delight to find, not just one, but two sites, one within the Glasgow City boundary and one within South Lanarkshire.

“It was a wonderful feeling to enter this brand-new record for the area after 175 years. This year has given us a tantalising glimpse of a few individuals and who knows, there are no doubt many other colonies to be found where there are oaks.”

The adult Purple Hairstreak Butterfly remains largely in the canopy of oak trees, making it harder to spot and record. Their main food source is honeydew (sugar-rich liquid secreted by insects feeding on plant sap.) It’s possible to find them wherever you find oaks; in woods and hedgerows, and even in parks in urban areas.

Tom Prescott, Senior Conservation Officer for Butterfly Conservation Scotland added: “We’re very excited by Tam’s sighting and look forward to monitoring more closely this interesting species which seems to be increasing its populations across Scotland. Whether this is a result of changing weather conditions or increased awareness, we don’t know yet, but it certainly is excellent news that this species is doing so well in Scotland.” Butterfly Conservation is the UK charity dedicated to halting the rapid decline of butterflies and moths and protecting our environment. Find out more: butterfly-conservation.org