Despite its confusing name, the green-underside blue is not a color but a butterfly—and a beautiful one too. This 26-37 mm (1.0-1.45 in)-wide butterfly,(1) part of a group of butterflies known as “blues”,(2) lives throughout most of Europe,(3) part of North Africa,(3) and part of Asia,(1,2,4) from Spain(2) and Algeria(3) to Finland,(5,6) eastern Kazakhstan,(4) and eastern Siberia.(1) It gets its name from the splash of greenish-blue on the underside of both females and males,(2) although the rest of the underside is more silvery and has a varying number of black spots(1,2,3)(larger on the front wings than on the rear wings(1)). The back of the wings in males are vivid blue with a black edge 1-2 mm (0.04-0.08 in) wide,(2) while in females the wing-backs are more brownish with some blue mixed in.(2,3) These butterflies can most often be found sipping the nectar from many types of flowers(7) in grasslands, steppes, and forests (8) from March to July,(1,2,3,4) having spent the winter months transforming from a hairy green-and-brown caterpillar into a brightly-colored butterfly.(1,2,9) As a caterpillar, this insect eats leafy plants, not nectar,(9) but it actually produces its own nectar-like substance which is a nutritious treat for ants;(10) as happens with some other related types of caterpillars, the ants gather around the green-underside blue caterpillar to feed on the liquid, giving the caterpillar protection at the same time.(10) While they don’t partner with ants when they are adult butterflies, green-underside blue butterflies do unintentionally help certain plants and even fungi reproduce, by transferring pollen and fungus spores from flower to flower.(7,11) Unfortunately, the green-underside blue is a threatened species. In spite of its wide range and its ability to live in many kinds of habitats, this beautiful butterfly is threatened by habitat loss(8,9) and possibly by global warming (6,12) and is considered vulnerable to extinction.(5)
- 1. “Kløverblåvinge.” UiO: Naturhistorik Museum. 2011. 19 Jul. 2011. http://www.nhm.uio.no/fakta/zoologi/insekter/norlep/lycaenidae/alexis.html
- 2. “Com Diferenciar Glaucopsyche alexis de Glaucopsyche melanops.” Cynthia: Bulletí del Butterfly Monitoring Scheme a Catalunya 1 (2001): 16.
- 3. Rowlings, Matt. “Glaucopsyche alexis: Green-Underside Blue.” Eurobutterflies. 2011. 18 Jul. 2011. http://www.eurobutterflies.com/species_pages/alexis.htm
- 4. Lukhtanov, V. A., M. S. Vishnevskaya, A. V. Volynkin, and R. V. Yakovlev. “Butterflies (Lepidoptera, Rhopalocera) of West Altai.” Entomological Review 87.5 (2007): 524-544.
- 5. Kivinen, Sonja, Miska Luoto, Risto K. Heikkinen, Kimmo Saarinen, and Terhi Ryttäri. “Threat Spots and Environmental Determinants of Red-Listed Plant, Butterfly and Bird Species in Boreal Agricultural Environments.” Biodiversity and Conservation 17.13 (2008): 3289-3305.
- 6. Pöyry, Juha, Miska Luoto, Risto K. Heikkinen, Mikko Kuussaari, and Kimmo Saarinen. “Species Traits Explain Recent Range Shifts of Finnish Butterflies.” Global Change Biology 15.3 (2009): 732-743.
- 7. Jennersten, Ola. “Butterfly Visitors as Vectors for Ustilago violacea Spores between Caryophyllaceous Plants.” Oikos 40.1 (1983): 125-130.
- 8. Van Swaay, Chris, Martin Warren, and Grégoire Loïs. “Biotope Use and Trends of European Butterflies.” Journal of Insect Conservation 10.1 (2006): 189-209.
- 9. Kuussaari, Mikko, Janne Heliölä, Juha Pöyry, and Kimmo Saarinen. “Contrasting Trends of Butterfly Species Preferring Semi-Natural Grasslands, Field Margins and Forest Edges in Northern Europe.” Journal of Insect Conservation 11.4 (2007): 351-366.
- 10. Fiedler, Konrad. “Ant-Associates of Palaearctic Lycaenid Butterfly Larvae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae; Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae) – A Review.” Myrmecologische Nachrichten 9 (2006): 77-87.
- 11. Jennersten, Ola. “Flower Visitation and Pollination Efficiency of Some North European Butterflies.” Oecologia 63.1 (1984): 80-89.
- 12. Parmesan, Camille, Nils Ryrholm, Constantí Stefanescu, Jane K. Hill, Chris D. Thomas, Henri Descimon, Brian Huntley, Lauri Kaila, Jaakko Kullberg, Toomas Tammaru, W. John Tennent, Jeremy A. Thomas, and Martin Warren. “Poleward Shifts in Geographical Ranges of Butterfly Species Associated with Regional Warming.” Nature 399.6736 (1999): 579-583.
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