Thursday, 1 December 2011

Silver Studded Blues with Ants at Prees Heath june 2011

Back in the middle of summer i visited Prees Heath in Shropshire to see the rare Silver studded blues - plebeius argus,  Prees Heath is the only location for them in Shropshire and it has a huge colony, last year over 1000 individual butterflies were counted in one morning!  the site is on an old airfield runway which is very exposed to the wind which was to be a big problem all day!
Unfortunately this year the weather had been warm one day , cold the next , so the butterflies started emerging over a number of weeks and not in a very short period like last year!.
This was the first time i actually met Gillian :)

The first silver stud i shot was a newly emerged male , as it was breezy i had to hold the stem in left hand while holding it high enough to be sheltered out of the wind by a large shrub and shoot single handed!   the IS on the 100mm L macro came in handy!

I also found a beautiful Meadow Brown -  maniola jurtina, early in the morning down in a ditch out of the breeze :)  and managed this superb image!

Followed by a Small Heath coenonympha pamphilus also sheltering in the same area!

As the temperature started warming up the silvers started appearing in good numbers, and found a few emerging being cleaned by the ants .unfortunately Gill did not arrive in time to see this event!  late as usual !

There is a special relationship between the butterflies and the ants,  to survive the silver studded blue requires the presence of ants together with open ground with bell and ling heather near the ants nests. the caterpillar is tended  by the ants as it feeds and then it turns into a chrysalis underground in the chambers of the ants nest!  The ants benefit by feeding on a honey like substance excreted by the Caterpillar, when the butterfly emerges it is helped out of the nest and then cleaned by the ants as its wings unfold!   it is an amazing site to see!   i hope these shots and videos tell the story.

A couple of closer views shot with canon mpe-65 macro lens.

                                                                    Shot with 100mm L

Here is a video of a female silver surrounded by males!
( click u tube icon for larger view)

And a fed up butterfly punching an ant, who then cleans the butterflies face!  lol

               A newly emerged male being tended to by the ants!  it really is an amazing site to watch! 

  Later in the afternoon we found quite a few perching in the long grass and low shrubs out of the wind all      along the edge of the main runway area., wind is a real pain trying to shoot delicate butterflies but through perseverance i managed quite a few images.

                                                              here is a female posing beautifully !

and a male perched on grass stem!  clearly shows the differences in colour!

And a mating pair!

                                                            Then i found a large Skipper!

                        this family of butterflies are not my favourites, always think they are a bit ugly! lol

 I tried a wide angle shot with 17-40L + 12mm extension tube added!  I think it works quite well showing the habitat in the frame, will try more of these type of images next year!

Here is a female perched beautifully! 

Here are three videos of emerging adults,available in 720p on  you tube !  the males are instantly attracted to any emerging adult in the hope of finding a female!  

 take a look at all the ants in the second video, literally hundreds!!!!!!!!!!

And a closer view!

Eventually i found a late emerging male, and shot a few videos (720p on you tube)  at high magnification with mpe-65 lens

I do hope you enjoy watching these, this was the first time i have tried the video on the 5d2!
All shot with canon 5d2, mpe-65 and 100mm L macro  


  1. fascinating Phil and some very nice shots. I have got to visit this site next year...!

  2. Some amazing work here: fascinating behaviour!

  3. Great work Phil,have been watching your work on Pete's site as well but no longer do the forums so have not commented until now.
    Was thinking of buying the MPE65 for ova shots on my website but have not looked at stacking yet.
    Your shots of the iris larva were stunning also,good old Matthew for finding them,I assume. Keep up this great work Phil.
    Kind regards

    Colin Baker