08-12-14 Butterfly Field Note

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08-12-14 Butterfly Field Note

August 12, 2014

Jeff Pippen's Field Note explores the variety of small butterflies in the Gossamer-wing (Lycaenidae) family called "blues".

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“Blues,” small butterflies in the Polyommatini tribe of the Gossamer-wing (Lycaenidae) family, show various light or dark spots on their gray underwings.

Boisduval’s Blues (Plebejus icarioides) show dark spots in the under forewing contrasting with white spots in the under hindwing. Ninebark provides nectar for this Boisduval’s Blue.

Abundant in spring, Silvery Blues (Glaucopsyche lygdamus), lay eggs on lupines. Bold dark spots mark the Silvery Blue’s under forewings and under hindwings. A distinct dark border separates the blue from the white fringe.

Greenish Blues (Plebejus saepiolus) show no white spots. Only a few subtle, submarginal orange spots accompany the dark spots on their under hindwings. The caterpillars feed on clovers.

Melissa Blues (Plebejus melissa, above) appear similar to Northern Blues (P. idas, below). Orange spots decorate the outer margins on both of their under hindwings and under forewings. The black border is thicker in Northern Blues. The shape of the black caps basal to the orange spots tends to be more peaked in Northern Blues. The first brood of Melissa appears here in late May. The first brood of Northern shows up in late June as the Melissas are fading. Northern Blues only produce one brood per year, but Melissa Blues may produce two to three, depending upon location.

“Buckwheat Blues” compose genus Euphilotes. Their caterpillars feed on species of buckwheats (Eriogonum spp.).

Lupine Blues (Plebejus lupini) look similar to buckwheat blues, but with iridescent blue coloration distal to the orange spots. Buckwheat blues never show this.

Azures compose a subgroup of the blues in the genus Celastrina. Taxonomists traditionally identified all of the azures in western Montana (and across much of the U. S.) as Spring Azures (C. ladon). More recently, lepidopterists discovered the Spring Azure complex contains several species. Our azure is the Echo Azure (C. echo).

Blue Coppers (Lycaena heteronea) look like blues and also belong to the Gossamerwing family, but the blackened veins on their wing surface distinguish them from the true blues.

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