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Family Lycaenidae - Blues, Coppers, Hairstreaks, Harvesters

Edward's Hairstreak - Satyrium edwardsii El Segundo Blue -- Euphilotes battoides allyni - Euphilotes battoides Cupido amyntula - female Banded Hairstreak - Satyrium calanus Spring Azure - Celastrina neglecta - male Banded Hairstreak (Satyrium calanus)? - Satyrium calanus Azure in Montana valley riparian area - Celastrina Hairstreak?
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)
Explanation of Names
LYCAENIDAE Leach 1815; type genus: Lycaena Fabricius
North American workers 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 typically consider them as three tribes (among several others) under the subfamily Lycaeninae; while certain other more distinctive groups (including Meletinae) are treated as full subfamilies. The related Metalmarks are commonly included as a sumbfamily (Riodininae) within the Lycaenidae as well.
Most species are gray or brown, many with delicate streaked markings beneath, hence the common name "Hairstreaks" (Theclinae); many have reflective blue, purple or copper colors above, resulting in the names "Blues" (Polyommatinae) and "Coppers" (Lycaeninae)(2)
Some characters of adults(1)(3):
antennae usually banded
eyes of adults indented near antennae and face is narrow between eyes
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
Adults of most species are avid flower visitors and derive most of their nutrition in this way, but many can also be seen visiting mud puddles, carrion, fermenting fruit, etc. It is not uncommon to see clouds of Blues rising from puddles when disturbed. Larval diet varies, but many species feed on buds or flowers, while some bore into buds, stems, or fruits. Harvesters have carnivorous larvae that favor small Homoptera such as Aphids. Some even live inside of Ant nests where they obtain food from the ants.
Harvester caterpillars are fond of woolly aphids on alders and beech trees.(4)
Life Cycle
Larvae of most species are rather "slug-like" in appearance (short and wide), with the head often held tucked under the thorax and hard to see except when they extend it to eat. Some are distinctly hairy, but most look rather bare with only a scattering of short hairs. Many species have sugar producing glands on the bodies of the larvae, and many of these are tended and protected by Ants. The life cycles of many of the blues, especially members of the genus Plebejus, are very complex and involve interesting relationships with Ants.(2)
Myrmecophilous species include Glaucopsyche piasus, G. lygdamus, Lycaeides melissa, Plebejus acmon, P. icarioides(5)
A number of species are parasitic or predatory (Pierce 1995)
The only butterfly family with carnivorous caterpillars feeding on plant-sucking insects.(4)
Internet References
Works Cited
1.The Butterflies of North America: A Natural History and Field Guide
James A. Scott. 1992. Stanford University Press.
2.Simon & Schuster's Guide to Insects
Dr. Ross H. Arnett, Dr. Richard L. Jacques. 1981. Fireside.
3.Photographic Atlas of Entomology and Guide To Insect Identification
James L. Castner. 2000. Feline Press.
4.Hidden Company that Trees Keep: Life from Treetops to Root Tips
James B. Nardi. 2023. Princeton University Press.
5.An Introduction to Southern California Butterflies
Fred Heath. 2004.