I was videoing this unfortunate false ilex hairstreak in
July 2004 when a wasp zoomed in and plucked it from in front of my eyes
Portugal, June 1992
I have only rare contact with this
butterfly, restricted as it is to Iberia and the south of France. It
is, however, relatively common in these places. My first encounters
were on the west coast of Portugal, in 1991 and 1992, on scrubby ground
and bushes by the sea. I then saw no more until I visited Roger Gibbons
in France in 2004. I was unfortunately 'between cameras' and only took
video, including a short sequence in which one false ilex hairstreak
was picked up by a wasp as it took minerals at a stream. Then there was
another long gap until I saw a few individuals in Aragón in 2017. I
will try and get better pictures in future years ...
In the books, this butterfly looks very similar to the ilex hairstreak.
It is, however, in no way merely a 'false' version of that species! It
has a quite distinct character, especially when ecological
considerations are taken into account, and I don't think I've ever been
in doubt in the field as to which species I am looking at. The false
ilex hairstreak is generally lighter in tone and the hairstreak itself
is composed of short, straight segments. These are not folded into deep
curves or 'v's at the anal angle. The orange spots are smaller at the
anal angle than those of ilex hairstreak and do not diminish
significantly in size going up the wing but form an even sequence. They
often show a reddish tinge. These characters together make
identification easy. There are other features - the strength and length
of the marginal white line on the hindwing, for example (stronger and
longer in ilex) but in the field these others rarely help much.
Eggs are laid on Holme oak and Kermes oak and it is this stage that
passes the winter. Adults fly from May through until August, depending
on latitude and altitude.