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Family Lycaenidae - Blues, Coppers, Hairstreaks, Harvesters

Thicket Hairstreak - Callophrys spinetorum Illinois data point - Strymon melinus Butterfly (Seaside) - Lycaena helloides Hairstreak at Joel Marsh - Satyrium calanus Callophrys? - Callophrys gryneus Are these in the Polyommatinae? - Celastrina echo Thicket Hairstreak - Callophrys spinetorum butterfly - Lycaena editha
Show images of: caterpillars · adults · both
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
Superfamily Papilionoidea (Butterflies and Skippers)
Family Lycaenidae (Blues, Coppers, Hairstreaks, Harvesters)
Other Common Names
Lycaenids, "Little Butterflies" (1)
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Family LYCAENIDAE Leach, 1815. Type genus: Lycaena Fabricius:
Explanation of Names
Author of family is Leach, 1815. Name of family is from Old World genus Lycaena, that from Greek λικαενα, a she-wolf, feminine of Greek λικοσ, wolf (2).

North American taxonomists traditionally divide our species among four subfamilies:
Theclinae - Hairstreaks
Polyommatinae - Blues
Lycaeninae - Coppers
Miletinae - Harvesters
The first three of these are very closely related, and taxonomists in other parts of the world commonly consider them as only three (among several) tribes under the subfamily Lycaeninae; while certain other more distinctive groups (including Meletinae) are treated as full subfamilies.
The family Lycaenidae contains many species, mostly small, many of them very rare. Most species are blue or brown colored with delicate, streaked markings, hence their common name, "hairstreaks" (Theclinae). Others are copper colored and popularly called "coppers" (Lycaeninae) (3).
Some characters of adults (1) (4):
antennae usually banded
eyes of adults indented near antennae and face is narrow
forelegs of males reduced, with fused tips without claws
forelegs of females "of almost normal size" and do bear claws
radial (R) veins of forewing simple, not forked
hindwing often with thread-like extensions that resemble antennae (typical of "hairstreaks")
coloration often bright, iridescent
Life Cycle
The small blue species are simply referred to as “blues” (Plebejinae). The life cycles of many of the blues, especially members of the genus Plebejus, are very complex and involve interesting relationships with ants.(3)
For a brief introduction to Lycaenids' mutualistic relationships with ants (myrmecophily) go to Art Shapiro's Butterfly Site .
Myrmecophilous species include: Glaucopsyche piasus, G. lygdamus, Lycaeides melissa, Plebejus acmon, and P. icarioides. ((5))
A number of species are parasitic or predatory (J. of the Lep. Soc. Predatory and Parasitic Lepidoptera).
Print References
Scott, p. 347 (1)
The Century Dictionary, entry for Lycaena (2)
Arnett & Jacques (3)
Castner, p. 130 (4)