Duke of Burgundy Butterfly: Identification, Life Cycle, and Behavior

In this article, you will gain insights about the intriguing Duke of Burgundy Butterfly. You’ll learn about its identification, unique life cycle, and fascinating behavior.

This knowledge will enhance your understanding and appreciation of this delicate creature.

Duke of Burgundy butterfly

What is the Classification of Duke of Burgundy Butterfly?

The Duke of Burgundy Butterfly, or Hamearis lucina as it’s scientifically known, belongs to the butterfly family Riodinidae, commonly referred to as the “metalmark butterflies.”

This small, vibrant butterfly is unique as it’s the only representative of the Riodinidae family in the United Kingdom.

To provide some taxonomic details:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Order: Lepidoptera
  • Family: Riodinidae
  • Genus: Hamearis
  • Species: H. lucina

Its momentous classification to the Riodinidae family is due to the butterfly’s distinct morphology and specialized habitat preferences.

The Duke of Burgundy is a distinct species with marked characteristics that make it stand out from other butterflies.

One fascinating aspect to consider, the Duke of Burgundy, despite its name, is technically not a ‘true’ butterfly at all. Instead, its classification marks it as a ‘metalmark’, a representation of its unique tin-foil like sheen.

This metallic characteristic is what greatly separates the Duke of Burgundy, not just from other butterflies, but from the entire populace of British insects.

Therefore, the classification of Duke of Burgundy is indisputably exceptional and intriguing.

What is the Distribution of Duke of Burgundy Butterfly?

You will mainly find the Duke of Burgundy butterfly in parts of Europe. Specifically, its geographic range includes the British Isles, Central Europe, and North Asia.

This butterfly species prefers chalk and limestone grasslands, showing a strong preference for warm, sheltered locations.

Within these habitats, the Duke of Burgundy butterfly is commonly found on scrubby grassland and woodland.

Interestingly, in Britain, it is more prominent in the southern counties, showing a strong affinity for coppiced woodland habitats.

Transitioning to the micro scale, each butterfly has a specific area which they inhabit. They occupy plots around 20 meters square (approximately 215 square feet). Don’t be surprised if you come across them in your own backyard, they may have set up their small territory there.

In conclusion, the distribution of the Duke of Burgundy butterfly is varied, but it is consistently found in specific habitats across Europe and Northern Asia.

These areas provide optimal conditions for their nourishment and reproduction. Understanding their distribution can contribute to conserving and increasing their population.

What are the Main Characteristics of the Duke of Burgundy Butterfly?

When considering main characteristics, the Duke of Burgundy is a sight to behold. This butterfly boasts a wingspan of around 1.2-1.6 inches (3-4 cm).

Despite its compact size, it flourishes with striking patterns.

  • On the wings, you’ll find alternating bands of orange and brown. This color display is accented with scattered white spots.
  • The upper side of its wings are dark brown with orange-brown patches.
  • The underside is lighter, a pale mixture of orange and brown.
  • Its body is broad and somewhat flattened, while antennae are club-shaped.

One standout feature is the number of flits. The Duke has a unique flight pattern. They often fly low to the ground, hovering over the vegetation.

Not to be overlooked are the sex brands. In male Dukes, you’ll spy a single rolled ‘sex brand’ on each forewing. They’re dark and rectangular with clearly defined edges. Female, however, don’t have these brands.

Finally, there are the scallops. This butterfly’s wings have a noticeably scalloped edge. So even at rest, it’s a specimen worth taking note of.

Pausing for a moment to take in these characteristics, it’s impossible not to appreciate the intriguing Duke of Burgundy.

How to Identify Male and Female Duke of Burgundy Butterfly?

Identification of the Duke of Burgundy Butterfly (Hamearis Lucina) relies on close examination of both physical features and behaviors.

Male and Female Duke of Burgundy butterflies exhibit dichromatism, meaning there are distinct color differences between the two genders.

Males have shining golden brown upper parts bedecked with a pattern of orange and dark spots, contrasts starkly with the lighter, more muted tones of the Females.

The Females sport paler orange-brown hues with the same patterning.

However, the true determinant of gender in these creatures lies in their underparts.

Note the underwing structure: males show a crisp pattern of white, brown, and tan with an identifying orange bar on the hind wing, while females lack this distinctive feature, presenting instead a varied shade of pale yellow-orange.

Behaviorally, distinguishing between male and female Duke of Burgundy’s can be easily done during the basking period.

Males are territorial creatures, seen flexing their bright upper wings to ward off competitors. In contrast, Females are less overt, spending their time primarily in the undergrowth laying eggs.

By observing these characteristics and behaviors, you can readily identify whether a Duke of Burgundy Butterfly is male or female.

Keep in mind that lighting and angle can affect color perception, so strive for multiple viewpoints when identifying these fascinating creatures.

What is the Mating Ritual of Duke of Burgundy Butterfly?

The mating ritual of the Duke of Burgundy butterfly is an fascinating behavioural spectacle. Males, unlike many other butterfly species, do not create territories to attract females.

Instead, they choose to fly around vigorously in search of receptive females.

Once spotting a potential mate, the male Duke of Burgundy butterfly performs an elaborate courtship routine.

This involves a display of rapid flight around the female, followed by a touching down period – the proverbial butterfly kiss.

If the female is receptive she will then open her wings and allow the male to mate. Such interaction is abrupt, usually lasting no longer than 15 minutes.

A quick but critical process. From here, the female begins her journey to locate the perfect spot to deposit her eggs.

The mating ritual of the Duke of Burgundy butterfly showcases not only the species’ unique habits, but also provides an insight into the wider ecosystem they inhabit.

Understanding their mating rituals further elucidates their life cycle and behaviour, shedding light on what needs to be done to protect these remarkable creatures.

What Does the Caterpillar of Duke of Burgundy Butterfly Look Like?

Beginning its life as a tiny entity, the Duke of Burgundy butterfly’s caterpillar paints quite the picture. Buoyed by its white tubercles, the caterpillar stands out with its noticeable humped back appearance.

Though mainly white in color, some individuals display red specks in their early stages, which predominantly fade away as they mature.

  • Length: The length of the early stage larvae is about 3 mm, growing progressively to 15 mm as it matures.

Such a caterpillar truly is nature’s artwork, subtly hinting at the beauty it is about to transform into.

Wrapped in its distinctive texture and structure, it is preparation for the metamorphosis into one of the insect world’s most renowned entities.

The distinctive aspects of the Duke of Burgundy caterpillar, such as its humped back and white tubercles, make it a fascinating study.

Enjoy recognizing and identifying this unique creature on your nature travels or for your educational purposes.

What is the Life Cycle of Duke of Burgundy Butterfly?

Much like other butterfly species, the life cycle of the Duke of Burgundy spans four distinct stages. First, you have the egg stage. Typically, female butterflies lay their eggs on host plants.

  • 1. Egg Stage

During early June, females deposit whitish oval eggs on the underside of leaves. They employ strategical tricks to scatter individual eggs across multiple plant leaves.

This spreads out the risk and maximizes the chances of survival for the next generation.

Next comes the caterpillar, or larval, stage.

  • 2. Larval Stage

This stage starts after about ten days post the egg stage. The emerging caterpillar consumes the eggshell first. Then, it starts gorging on suitable leaves from the cowslips or primrose host plants.

Remarkably, the caterpillar will molt five times before it transforms into a pupa.

Moving along, the pupal stage follows.

  • 3. Pupal Stage

The pupa, or chrysalis, stage begins in August. The mature caterpillar forms a cocoon-like structure with silk. Then, it transitions into a pupa within the protective confines.

During this phase lasting approximately two weeks, it undergoes spectacular changes inside its pupal skin.

The life cycle reaches its climax in the adult or imago phase.

  • 4. Adult Stage

The butterfly finally achieves its winged form. From early May, adults take to fluttering around in the sun, living a life span of 1-2 weeks. Males usually emerge a few days before females.

Remember, the environmental conditions heavily influence each step of this life cycle. The Duke of Burgundy has a single generation each year.

Therefore, accurate timing of each stage is crucial for successful reproduction.

What Is the Average Life Expectancy of a Duke of Burgundy Butterfly?

Primarily, you need to know that the Duke of Burgundy butterfly has a somewhat short life expectancy. On average, a Duke of Burgundy adult butterfly lives for just about two weeks.

  • This period generally begins in mid-May, extending to June.
  • By late summer, they would have completed their life cycle and passed away.
  • This means they experience one generation per year.

This lifespan, however, changes depending on various factors. For instance, factors such as weather conditions, available food sources, and absence of threats can enhance their survival chances.

Also the quality of the habitat determines Duke of Burgundy butterfly’s life expectancy.

The necessity to pay attention when studying these butterflies comes to light here. With a limited lifespan, every moment matters to comprehend their behavior and lifecycle thoroughly.

It’s crucial we work steadfastly for conservation to ensure their survival and the continuation of their captivating life cycle.

Please note that, although short-lived, these butterflies lead quite fascinating lives. They exhibit unique behavioral features, have a remarkable mating ritual, and go through an intriguing life cycle.

One could say that they make the most of their brief existence.

What Does the Diet of a Duke of Burgundy Butterfly Consist Of?

Understanding the diet of the Duke of Burgundy butterfly helps in its conservation. Interestingly, Luke of Burgundy butterflies are not known to feed as adults.

They derive all the nutrients they need from their larval stage, living off their own reserves.

Their caterpillars, on the other hand, feed voraciously on the leaves of two specific plant species: the Primula Veris (Cowslip) and the Primula Vulgaris (Primrose).

The feeding happens at night, while during the day, they hide at the base of the plant.

The Cowslip is the preferred choice in woodland habitats, while the Primrose is prevalent in areas of scrub and grassland.

The selection is crucial, as the caterpillar needs to eat substantial amounts to accumulate the required nutrients for metamorphosis.

In conclusion, while the adult Duke of Burgundy butterflies do not eat, their caterpillars rely on Primula Veris and Primula Vulgaris for survival.

Conservation efforts should, therefore, target these specific habitats for protection to ensure the butterfly’s future generations.

Which Plants Serve as the Primary Hosts for Duke of Burgundy Butterfly?

You might be wondering, ‘What are the primary host plants for the Duke of Burgundy butterfly?’ Well, there are two main plants that these butterflies prefer.

The first is cowslip (Primula veris), while the other is primrose (Primula vulgaris).

In their caterpillar stage, Duke of Burgundy butterflies are strict in their dietary needs. Specifically, they choose to live and feed on these aforementioned plants. Even more, they generally prefer the younger, tender leaves over the older ones.

You can frequently find these butterflies in habitats where these plants are abundant. This could be in woodland clearings, grassland habitats, or traditionally managed calcareous grasslands.

It’s fascinating how these specific plants play a pivotal role in the survival and conservation of the Duke of Burgundy butterfly.

Sensitivity to the environment is a crucial part of their lifestyle. These butterflies have adapted to use specific plant species, thriving best in unimproved habitats void of fertilizer application.

Consequently, understanding this preference can prove essential for conservation efforts.

On a final note, it’s important to remember that although cowslip and primrose are the most common host plants, the Duke of Burgundy can adapt.

When other resources are scarce, they have been known to thrive on other plants like rock-rose, showing versatility and adaptability.

So all in all, it is the cowslip and primrose that serve as the primary hosts for Duke of Burgundy butterflies.

An understanding of this relationship proves critical for the preservation and growth of these particular butterfly populations in the wild.

What are the Unique Mimicry Behaviors in Duke of Burgundy Butterfly?

One profound element of the Duke of Burgundy butterfly’s survival strategies involves mimicking. This butterfly possesses a unique mimicry behavior to elude its predators.

It exploits the fear and hesitation induced in birds by the striking, bright wing colors of toxic butterflies.

In particular, the Duke is not toxic but features unmistakable orange and brown patterns. Fascinatingly, this is similar to a few truly harmful butterfly species. By replicating their design, it deceives predators into thinking it’s poisonous too.

Transformations help in achieving such accurate mimics. As the caterpillar grows into an adult, its color and pattern shift to resemble the toxic butterflies more closely.

This phenomenon of disguise scientifically known as Batesian mimicry, offers the Duke a profound survival edge.

In addition, the Duke’s erratic flight pattern plays a role in mimicry. It speeds up abruptly or changes directions unpredictably, keeping potential predators guessing about its next move.

This behavior, combined with its visual deception, makes this butterfly a tricky catch for predators.

Despite being small in size (wingspan about 1.3 inches or 3.3 cm), this butterfly is big on survival strategies. Mimicry is an inherent tool in the survival arsenal of Duke of Burgundy butterfly.

It symbolizes how small creatures can outwit larger, more powerful enemies with deception and unpredictability.

This survival mechanism outlines the ingenious adaptative capabilities of wildlife, emphasizing that size is not always the determining factor in the fight for survival.

What Are the Main Threats to Duke of Burgundy Butterfly Populations?

The Duke of Burgundy butterfly faces a multitude of threats. One of the most significant challenges is habitat loss.

  • Habitat loss: Their primary habitats, chalk grasslands and deciduous woodlands in Europe, are rapidly being destroyed or altered. This disruption leads to a reduction in the availability of food and breeding sites. These changes have a direct impact on the butterfly’s ability to reproduce and survive.

Another major threat comes from their restricted distribution.

  • Restricted Distribution: Being limited to specific geographical areas, any changes in these regions can have a drastic effect. Climate change, in particular, poses an imminent threat. It not only alters their habitation but also impacts their breeding cycle and the availability of food resources.

The caterpillar’s picky eating habits also put these butterflies at risk.

  • Diet limitations: The caterpillar stage of the Duke of Burgundy butterfly is particularly fussy. It only consumes two types of plant species, the cowslip and the primroses. Any decrease or changes in these plant species directly affects their survival capabilities.

Lastly, the lack of genetic diversity is a grave concern for the Duke of Burguindy butterflies.

  • Lack of Genetic Diversity: This lack of diversity can make them more susceptible to diseases and less able to adapt to environmental changes.

In conclusion, it’s vital we address these threats to safeguard the future of the Duke of Burgundy butterfly.

Significant efforts for habitat conservation, monitoring climate change effects and maintaining diversification can help.

Even small efforts into securing their food sources can make a big difference in their survival and proliferation.


In conclusion, the Duke of Burgundy Butterfly is a fascinating creature with unique characteristics and behaviors.

The survival of this beautiful insect, however, is under threat due to habitat destruction and climate change.

So, what are your thoughts on the amazing Duke of Burgundy Butterfly? Please, feel free to leave a comment.

Butterflies   Updated: September 25, 2023
avatar Welcome to Insectic, a blog to learn about insects and bugs. I'm Richard, and I've created this website to share my experience, knowledge, and passion with others.

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