Blue Butterflies by John Ashley

Butterflies: Blues

Known as “blues,” these diminutive butterflies are among the most numerous on the planet. Part of the Lycaenidae family, the second-largest family of butterflies [1], there are over 6,000 species worldwide. Members of the family are commonly referred to as gossamer-winged butterflies because of the delicacy of their wings. They constitute about 30% of the known butterfly species.

The Lycaenidae family is traditionally divided into subfamilies by color and shape: blues (Polyommatinae), coppers (Lycaeninae), hairstreaks (Theclinae) and harvests (Miletinae). The blues are stunning and they are quite small, measuring under 5 centimeters. Many are very brightly colored, sometimes with a metallic-blue gloss to their wings. [2]

The Blues butterfly larvae are known to be flattened rather than cylindrical, with glands that seem to produce secretions that attract and subdue their prey: ants. They also makes some low vibration sounds that are a rudimentary form of communication with ants.

Adult Blues often have hairy antenna-like tails, complete with black and white annulated rings. Many Blues also have a spot at the base of its tail. The eye is confusing to potential predators, as the predators become confused as the the true head of the butterfly.   and some turn around upon landing to confuse potential predators from recognizing the true head orientation. 

Miami blue butterfly, Hemiargus thomasi bethunebakeri, Jaret C. Daniels, PhD, McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity

Lycaenids are diverse in their food habits and apart from phytophagy, some of them are entomophagous feeding on aphids, scale insects and ant larvae. Some Blues even exploit their association with ants by inducing ants to feed them by regurgitation, a process called trophallaxis. [3]


[1]   The Lycaenidae are only behind Nymphalidae, or brush-footed butterflies, which hold the largest number of species spot.

[2]  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyommatinae

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyommatinae