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This Week's Creature Feature: The Azure Butterfly

Too fast for my camera to show their namesake inner wings

 

      A small gray-and-blue mirage fluttered wildly around my feet. It stopped for two seconds on a clover flower before taking off again just as erratically. I was trying to get a photo of an opened-winged butterfly, but it was too difficult.

      The tiny butterflies are named for the beautiful azure blue of their inner wings. The outside of their folded wing is gray and outlined with with small, dark bars. Their antennae have alternating bars of white and black.

     The number of species of azures is a matter of controversy. Locally there are thought to be at least two, the spring and the summer azure. The difference between the two species is very slight. Both are small but the spring azure is smaller, about the size of a thumbnail. The butterflies are present from early April through September by way of multiple generations.

     The butterflies rub their wings together, which spreads pheromones into the air to attract the opposite sex. After fertilization, they lay eggs on native flowers. The caterpillars feed on the flowers and produce a sweet syrup that attract ants. The ants protect the caterpillars and care for them like farmers. The young quickly mature and form a chrysalis and then a tiny butterfly.

     The adults feed on all kinds of small flowers. Later in the day, I found several that were slowly enjoying lavender flowers.