Small Blue (Cupido minimus)
West Sussex, 23 May 2016
C. minimus is our smallest resident butterfly with a wing span that can be a little as 16mm. The sexes are similar in appearance, although the male (top image) upperside is almost black with a light dusting of blue scales, whereas the female (lower image) appears dark brown in colour. Both sexes have an underside that is silvery-grey, which is not dissimilar to that of the Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus).
This beautiful little butterfly has a large distribution, being found from northern Scotland to the south of England, with colonies also in Wales and Ireland. Outside of its strongholds in the south of England, colonies are often merely isolated pockets, typically in coastal locations, with most populations consisting of just a few dozen adults. In Sussex, minimus has not yet recovered from the weather-related population crash occurring between 2007 and 2012. With 2015 having been a testing season for this species, we wait with some trepidation as to its fortunes in 2016.