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Ian Perkins

Duke of Burgundy (Hamearis lucina) © Ian Perkins

Duke of Burgundy

Ian Perkins

Fast facts

  • Latin name: Hamearis lucina
  • Notable feature: Dark brown wings with distinctive orange spots, a fairly small butterfly with a wing span of 29-32mm
  • Rarity in UK: Rare / Common
  • Where in the UK: Stronghold in central-southern areas of UK
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One of our rarest butterflies, the Duke of Burgundy has undergone a huge population decline. It is now mainly found in scattered populations across southern England, with a few isolated populations in the southern Lake District and Yorkshire.  

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This distinctive little fella loves scrubby grassland and sunny woodland clearings and can be identified by its dark brown wings with bright orange spots.

The females can be seen from mid-April to late June, and like to lay their eggs on the underside of Primrose (Primula vulgaris) or Cowslip (Primula veris) leaves, which the caterpillars feed on once they have hatched.  A little bit fussy, they prefer taller plants growing on north or west facing slopes.

Night owl babies

Once the eggs have hatched in May the larvae only feed at night, emerging at dusk and chomping a distinctive pattern on leaves.  The winter is then spent as a pupa hiding in dense tussocks of fine grass, emerging as an adult from late April.  Adults typically live around five days and the fast flying males defend a territory, darting out to attack intruders from a perch on a sunlit leaf.  Females are more elusive and will be on the look out for places to lay their eggs. Neither sex spends much time visiting flowers.

Sun worshippers

This is a butterfly that needs warm, sunny, sheltered places. It particularly likes the clearings in ancient woodland and chalk and limestone grassland with scattered shrubs. The decline of coppicing in woods in the latter half of the 20th Century and changes in grassland management have contributed much to the decline of this distinctive butterfly. It is now thought to have declined by over 50% in the last 25 years.

The Duke of Burgundy is a species of conservation concern and it is protected from being traded by the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

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