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C’arn the blues

March 4, 2020
by

A ‘blue’ on Purple Loosestrife

A  recent blog described the Hesperiidae family of small butterflies, commonly known as Skippers. They are a relatively unknown group of small, generally orange/brown butterflies. Another relatively unknown family of butterflies is Lycaenidae, the Blues and Coppers, also called the Gossamer-Winged Butterflies. They are the second largest group of butterflies comprising about 30% of known butterfly species. The majority of Lycaenids in Australia exist in tropical areas. There are less than a dozen species in Tasmania. Most commonly around here this family is represented by small blue/grey butterflies which are frequenting flowers at the moment (pictured left).

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Common Grass-blues (Zizina labradus) mating

Ants tending an Imperial Hairstreak caterpillar


The distributions of species are highly localised reflecting the spread of particular plants that the larvae feed on and the relationship many species have with specific ants. Many butterflies of the Lycaenidae family have a beneficial relationship with ants (click HERE to read the previous blog about the Imperial Hairstreak). The caterpillars and pupae have a gland which releases honeydew, a sugar-rich substance secreted by a number of insects including hemipterans such as psyllids and gumtree hoppers. The ants harvest this honeydew and in return offer the caterpillars protection from predators and parasites. In some species the caterpillars enter the ants nest to pupate and the emerging adult has to find its way to the surface.

Even though larger butterflies are more easily seen, a careful look at your flowering plants at the moment will give you ‘the blues’, in a nice way.

One Comment leave one →
  1. macwake permalink*
    March 4, 2020 8:50 am

    The Common Grass-blues in our rosemary are providing a feast for lots of Superb Fairy-wrens at present.

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