Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Some of the following were published originally as subgenera rather than full genera (i.e. at least some of those published by Verity and by Zhdanko), and this distinction is confused in literature; it has yet to be clarified in the listing given here.
Lycaena Fabricius, 1807. Type species: Papilio phlaeas Linnaeus
Heodes Dalman, 1816. TS: Papilio virgaureae Linnaeus [= Lycaena phlaeas (Linnaeus)]
Chysoptera Zincken, 1817. TS: Papilio virgaureae Linnaeus[= Lycaena phlaeas (Linnaeus)]
Lycia Sodoffsky, 1837. TS: Papilio phlaeas Linnaeus
Migonitis Sodoffsky, 1837. TS: Papilio phlaeas Linnaeus
Chrysophanus Scudder, 1872. TS: Papilio hyllus Cramer
Tharsalea Scudder, 1876. TS: Polyommatus arota Boisduval
Gaeides Scudder, 1876. TS: Chrysophanus dione Scudder
Chalceria Scudder, 1876. TS: Chrysophanus rubidus Behr
Epidemia Scudder, 1876. TS: Polyommatus epixanthe Boisduval & Leconte
Rumicia Tutt, 1906. TS: Papilio phlaeas Linnaeus
Loweia Tutt, 1906. TS: Papilio dorilis Hüfnagel [= Lycaena tityrus (Poda)]
Hyrcanana Bethune-Baker, 1914. TS: Polyommatus caspius Lederer
Thersamonia Verity, 1919. TS: Papilio thersamon Esper
Iophanus Draudt, 1920. TS: Chrysophanus pyrrhias Godman & Salvin
Palaeoloweia Verity, 1934. TS: Papilio dorilis Hüfnagel [= Lycaena tityrus (Poda)]
Helleia Verity, 1943. TS: Papilio helle Denis & Schiffermüller
Sarthusia Verity, 1943. TS: Polyommatus sarthus Staudinger [= Lycaena ophion Hemming]
Disparia Verity, 1943. TS: Papilio dispar Haworth
Phoenicurusia Verity, 1943. TS: Polyommatus phoenicurus, Lederer [really Polyommatus margelanica Staudinger; misidentified type]
Palaeochrysophanus Verity. 1943. TS: Papilio hippothoe Linnaeus
Thersamolycaena Verity, 1957. TS: Papilio dispar Haworth
Hermelycaena Miller & Brown, 1978. TS: Lycaena hermes W. H. Edwards
Hyllolycaena Miller & Brown, 1979. TS: Lycaena hyllus Cramer
Hellolycaena Koçak, 1983. TS: Polyommatus thoe Guérin-Méneville [= Lycaena hyllus (Cramer)]
Athamanthia (Zhdanko), 1983. TS: Polyommatus athamantis Eversmann
Margelycaena Koçak & Kemal, 2001. TS: Polyommatus margelanica Staudinger
Explanation of Names
There has been considerable confusion as to what genus name to use for which species in this group - with good reason.
The family Lycaenidae has been subject to a long term, and ongoing mass production of names, often based on trivial and dubious distinctions, resulting in many synonyms for both genera and species. The genus Lycaena is no exception. Many authors ignore all of these genus names and call everything Lycaena with no qualification beyond that. However, many authors continue to recognize a number of these names as distinct genera, or as subgenera of Lycaena, and several of these names may be seen variously attached to our species.
In North America, the following subgenera are often recognized (sometimes as full genera):
subgenus Chalceria: L. dione, xanthoides, editha, rubida, and heteronea
- Lycaena dione, xanthoides, and editha are sometimes placed instead in their own subgenus Gaeides.
subgenus Epidemia: L. hyllus, nivalis, epixanthe, dorcas, dospassosi, helloides, and mariposensis
- Lycaena hyllus is sometimes placed instead in it's own subgenus Hyllolycaena (or Chrysophanus).
subgenus Hermelycaena: L. hermes
subgenus Iophanus: L. pyrrhias [in Guatemala & s. Mexico]
subgenus Lycaena: L. phlaeas, and cupreas
subgenus Tharsalea: L. arota
Small butterflies, but generally large for the family, most are tailess, and usually associated with moist sunny places where foodplants grow. Upper wings are usually shades of brown and orange (occasionally gray) often, especially in males, with metallic coppery to purplish overtones (blue only in L. heteronea). The underside is usually white to yellowish or orange with small black dots (sometimes dark lines) and in most species there is an orange marginal band on the hind wing. Our species normally have three dark spots or bars across the discal cell of the front wing below [except L. hermes and Central American L. pyrrhias only have two].
Primarily Holarctic, with a few species in Africa, the Indo-Pacific, and New Zealand.
Most species favor moist meadow, bog, or similar riparian habitats.
Larvae utilize a wide range of plants, but primarily members of family Polygonaceae, including genera Rumex, Oxyria, Polygonum, Eriogonum, Muehlenbeckia, etc. Occasionally other families such as Rosaceae (Dasiphora & Potentilla), Ericaceae (Vaccinium)
Adults are avid flower visitors. They are typically alert and highly active, spending much time flying and feeding. Flight is usually relatively low and near the ground. Males often show territorial behavior, often chasing other butterflies that pass their selected perches. Often sit with wings closed over backs while moving hind wings alternately forward and rearward, presumably to direct attention of predators away from head, toward hind end of wings (a common behavior among the Lycaenidae).