The Large Blue is one Britain’s rarest butterflies. I’ve been fortunate enough to see it several times. But the Large Blue is a butterfly which, in sunny weather, always lands with its wings closed. And that’s a problem, because with its wings closed, the extremely rare Large Blue looks exactly like the very un-rare Common Blue butterfly, but – well, larger. But some Common Blues can grow quite large and when the butterfly is in flight, it can be hard to tell them apart.
To be certain that you’ve found the Large Blue, you have to see it with open wings – the upper wing is dramatically different to the Common Blue. And the best way to achieve that is to find a good spot, where the butterfly food plants are plentiful, and then wait for it to show up.
This was the approached I followed successfully yesterday at a site in Gloucestershire where the Large Blue still clings on. But what I hadn’t counted on was that this year has been a very good year if you’re a Horsefly, and they were holding a NASH (that’s the National Association of Starving Horseflies) meeting . I’m allergic to Horseflies, and a single bite can be enough to make my hard/arm/leg swell up alarmingly. As a naturalist, I’m supposed to like all wildlife, even the ones that bite me, but I’m prepared to make an exception – a very big exception – for Horseflies. I was sitting still, and an easy target, so they bit… and bit… and bit.
I got my picture, and a memorable encounter with this wonderful butterfly. And I’ll remember it for months, not just because the Large Blue is hard to find and photograph, but because that’s how long it will take for the bites to stop itching. Was it worth it? Clearly it was, because I went back again today for another go.