Grassland butterflies

common blue butterflyOut walking the dogs on Saturday and doing a preliminary recce of the path for my wildflower survey I was delighted to stumble upon 20 or so common blue butterflies flittering and fluttering around a neighbouring farmer's field margins.

Most of the farmers in and around Feltwell in Norfolk have left a wide strip around the edge of each field that is uncultivated.  Some of them are deliberately sown with wildflowers that will support birds and beasts, others are simply left to grow long so that seeds that are dormant in the soil can burst into life.  This particular field margin seems to be mainly grasses with a few yarrow plants when you get close to the footpath.

Common meanings

When I was much younger than I am now, my Mum always used the word “common” as a derogatory term eg, “don’t put your elbows on the table, it’s common” and so when I hear of a plant or a creature with a name that includes the word common, part of me thinks negative thoughts. 

The word common, used as an adjective is defined in the Cambridge Dictionary as “the same in a lot of places or for a lot of people” and these wonderful blue butterflies are indeed the commonest blue butterfly to be found in the British Isles.  They’re found just about everywhere, even Orkney.  But you won’t find it in Shetland or in the mountains of Scotland and Wales.

The latin name for this delightful creature is Polyommatus icarus which translates as "the many eyed one" because of all the circular marks on the underside of its wings.

Which plants attract Common Blues?

birdsfoot trefoil in Meadowmat

This butterfly seems to favour Birdsfoot trefoil, and Black medick as laval food plants and so you’ll often find it living in colonies on road verges and unimproved grassland.  The adults feed on a wide variety of flowers and like to sunbathe on grasses.

I have spotted one or two of these visiting my Meadowmat  they come and feed on the native flowers and seem to enjoy the mix of flowers and grasses.   There's plenty of clover and birdsfoot trefoil growing in my mini-meadow so I'm hoping the common blues will be using it to rear their young this year, (even though caterpillars give me the creeps!)


How to make a meadow that will attract butterflies

Download our guide to wildflower meadows