Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Brephidium exilis (Boisduval, 1852)
Lycaena exilis Boisduval, 1852
Brephidium exilis exilis Boisduval, 1852
Lycaena isophthalma Herrich-Schäffer, 1862
Brephidium exilis isophthalma Herrich-Schäffer, 1862
Lycaena fea Edwards, 1871
Brephidium exilis ab. ♀ coolidgei Gunder, 1925
(As of Oct 2016, BugGuide maintains gender agreement by using Brephidium exile
though it appears that most authors use Brephidium exilis
notably Pelham (2012)(2016)(1)
Explanation of Names
Latin for "small". The smallest butterfly in our area.
Greek for "same eye".
Wingspread: 12 to 20 mm
Males are smaller than females.
Throughout the Southwest of North America. Introduced and spreading in the Middle East
- range map with monthly record of photos submitted to the guide.
Larval hosts include the genera (in no particular order):
Salicornia, Suaeda, Chenopodium, Salsola, Atriplex, Halogeton, Batis, Allenrolfea, Sesuvium, Trianthema, Amaranthus, Portulaca, Cycloloma, Bassia, Beta, Grayia, Kochia, Suckleya, Sarcobatus, Krascheninnikovia (= Ceratoides), and probably many more in families Chenopodiaceae, Sesuviaceae, Amaranthaceae, and Portulaceae. Quite likely related families such as Montiaceae, Aizoaceae, Mesembryanthemaceae, Cactaceae, etc. could be utilized as well. [note: Aizoaceae, Mesembryanthemaceae, and Sesuviaceae are often combined; Montiaceae is recently separated from Portulacaceae; Amaranthaceae and Chenopodiaceae are often combined.]
Multiple broods throughout the year, pausing during drought and cold. Overwintering as pupae and ?adults.
Trivia: This species is often considered to be the smallest species of butterfly in the world (of course some individuals are smaller than others). However, there are other species approximately equally small, and there is a tendency toward pride of home (people will tend to claim their local species as the "true" smallest butterfly). Some other contenders include: Tongeia minima from China; Brephidium pseudofea from North America; Brephidium [or Oraidium] barberae from southern Africa; Zizula hylax from Old World tropics; Pseudophilotes sinaicus from Egypt; Micropsyche ariana from Afghanistan; all of them Blues. There may be others as well (perhaps some Skippers).
Boisduval, J.A. 1852. Lepidoptères de la Californie. Annales de la Société entomologique de France
. (2) 10 : 294
Scudder, S.H. 1976. Synonymic List of the Butterflies of North America, North of Mexico. Bulletin of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences.
Butterflies of America
- comprehensive species account.