The Duke of Burgundy, revisiting His Grace

Those of you who have followed this blog for awhile will be aware that the first butterfly I decided to try and find outside my home County was the Duke of Burgundy (Hamearis lucina).  I don’t think my images last year did justice to this rare, small and captivating creature, so armed with the new Sigma, Tina and I headed 130 miles south to Totternhoe Old Quarry in Bedfordshire.

A roosting Duke on the tip of a sapling, the perfect image and one I will treasure

The Duke has a wingspan of 29-32 mm (about 1 1/4 inch), it has suffered a massive decline across Europe.  It can be found on rough grassland and in woodland clearings where it’s caterpillar feeds on primrose or cowslip.  The males form small leks and defend their territory from all-comers while waiting for the ladies.  The females (Duchess?) differs from the male in having six legs, as they are so small it is hard to see this in the field.  They used to be called fritillaries but are members of the Metalmark family.

His Grace ready to defend his territory

The weather was far from ideal being cool and overcast, but in one bright period the Dukes woke up and in one small area we counted six before the skies turned grey and they returned to roost in the bushes.  One thing I have noticed on the images is that the upperwing on some have a sheen which makes the picture look out of focus.  On leaving a fellow butterfly photographer called me over, he had found a Burgundy roosting allowing for a perfect image, and a great memory.

For more images I have updated the portfolio and invite you to take a look, click this link

21 thoughts on “The Duke of Burgundy, revisiting His Grace

  1. First class images Brian.One of my favourite butterflies too.We no longer have this species on the Isle of Wight.A trip to Butster Hill in Hampshire is I think the nearest spot to us.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting seeing the two perspectives of the wings showing the contrast in colors between the upper and the bottom coloration. Not very knowledgeable on butterflies (slowly getting better from your posts!), but expected more similarity between the two sides under the assumption of how thin they are. Also intrigued by the word “defend” in this context. Never considered them to be aggressive or really have the tools to be aggressive with. As always an entertaining post – thnx for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Trust me Brian they are very aggressive, toward each other and any other passing insect! Several species are like this, the Green Hairstreak I featured a couple of weeks ago is even worse, and the mighty Purple Emperor (out in July) will attack birds! I kid you not. Several species also have wings with different pattern/colouration a lot of it is for camouflage or to startle predators.


    1. Thanks Sven, the Duke is becoming scarce in the UK, it is holding on at certain sites due to great conservation work but it’s needs are very specific and not compatible with other species.


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