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Comprehensive Description

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The green-underside blue is a species of butterfly, in a group known as “blues,”(1) that is native to most of Europe,(2) part of North Africa,(2) and part of Asia,(1,3,4) from Spain (1) and Algeria(2) to Finland,(5,6) eastern Kazakhstan,(4) and eastern Siberia(3). While it is found in many different environments, it primarily lives in grassland, steppe, and deciduous forest habitats.(7) This butterfly, with a wingspan of around 26-37 mm (1.0-1.45 in),(3) has a striking multicolored appearance. The backs of the wings of males are blue(1,2,3) with a black edge 1-2 mm (0.04-0.08 in) wide(1), while those of females are brown with variable amounts of blue.(1,2) The underside in both males and females is a silvery color with varying numbers of black spots(1,2,3) (the spots are generally larger on the forewings than on the hind-wings(3)) and the splash of greenish-blue that gives the species its name.(1) The butterfly emerges in the springtime and can be seen from March to July,(1,2,3,4) after having spent the winter transforming from its hairy brown-and-green caterpillar stage.(1,3,8) These caterpillars, like those of many others in the family Lycaenidae, sometimes engage in a partnership with ants, which give the caterpillars protection in exchange for a nutritious fluid that the caterpillars secrete.(9) The caterpillars themselves eat leafy plants,(8) especially legumes,(3,10) while the adult green-underside blues feed primarily on the nectar of a variety of flowers.(11) In flying from flower to flower, the butterflies also carry pollen and sometimes even fungus spores between plants, unintentionally helping both plants and fungi reproduce.(10,11) In spite of its wide range and occurrence in different types of habitat, this beautiful butterfly is threatened by habitat loss (7,8) and potentially by a warming climate (6,12) and is listed as vulnerable to extinction.(5)

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Introduction

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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)

References

  • 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.
  • 3. “Kløverblåvinge.” UiO: Naturhistorik Museum. 2011. 19 Jul. 2011. http://www.nhm.uio.no/fakta/zoologi/insekter/norlep/lycaenidae/alexis.html
  • 10. Jennersten, Ola. “Flower Visitation and Pollination Efficiency of Some North European Butterflies.” Oecologia 63.1 (1984): 80-89.
  • 1. “Com Diferenciar Glaucopsyche alexis de Glaucopsyche melanops.” Cynthia: Bulletí del Butterfly Monitoring Scheme a Catalunya 1 (2001): 16.
  • 2. 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.
  • 7. Van Swaay, Chris, Martin Warren, and Grégoire Loïs. “Biotope Use and Trends of European Butterflies.” Journal of Insect Conservation 10.1 (2006): 189-209.
  • 8. 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.
  • 9. Fiedler, Konrad. “Ant-Associates of Palaearctic Lycaenid Butterfly Larvae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae; Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae) – A Review.” Myrmecologische Nachrichten 9 (2006): 77-87.
  • 11. Jennersten, Ola. “Butterfly Visitors as Vectors for Ustilago violacea Spores between Caryophyllaceous Plants.” Oikos 40.1 (1983): 125-130.
  • 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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UK Butterflies

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The UK Butterflies website provides information on all of the butterfly species found in the British Isles, including those that are extinct or migrants. This website is open to anyone wishing to contribute Finally, the many website features can be accessed using the drop-down menus found at the top of each page.

The site is well organized and has a listing of plants associated with butterflies as larvae and adults. The images on the site ae quite good and they have a database of "stock photos" which can be bought or supplied for educational uses.

On the sidebar, there is a list of currently flying butterflies. The site encourages personal involvement with the project for butterfly identification and recording and preservation of habitats.

The linkage on the site is excellent. The site was created byPeter Eeles.

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Glaucopsyche alexis

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Lycaenidae - Glaucopsyche alexis.JPG

Glaucopsyche alexis, the green-underside blue, is a butterfly of the family Lycaenidae. It is found in the Palearctic.

The butterfly flies from April to July depending on the location, lingering in warm, lush meadows with plenty of its host plant, vetch (Vicia).

Subspecies

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Seitz 82f

Description from Seitz

L. cyllarus Rott. (= damoetas Schiff.) (82 f). Male above light cyaneous blue with a violet sheen and narrow black border; female darker blue with the black border gradually shading off, so that it occupies nearly the whole outer half of the wings. Beneath silver-grey (male) or ashy grey (female), the forewing with 5 or 6 large rounded black spots, the hindwing with small ocelli and in its whole basal half with metallic blue-green dusting. In ab. dimus Bgstr. the ocelli of the forewing beneath are reduced to 4; on the other hand, they may also be increased in number, or may be elongate (= subtus-radiata Oberth.). In European Turkey and the neighbouring districts of Anterior Asia the ocelli of the forewing appear to be constantly or at least commonly enlarged, the blue also being darker; this is ab. tristis Gerh.. Throughout Central and Southern Europe, North Africa and North Asia to the Amur; absent from England and Japan. — ab. andereggii Ruhl (82 g) occurs in the Alps (perhaps also elsewhere); it is a large female-form which is above entirely black-brown, the underside being dark ashy grey, with the very large ocelli placed in pale rings.— blachieri Mill. (82 g) is a very small form from Southern France and the Yalais which has beneath only 4 ocelli on the forewing and very scanty blue-green dusting at the base of the hindwing; above darker and duller blue. — coelestina Mill., nec Ev. (82 g) is similar to the preceding form; above very dull in colour, underside with blue-green scaling only in the basal half, the ocelli of the forewing reduced in size, those of the hindwing almost obsolete. — lugens Car. (82 g) has altogether lost the ocellli of the hindwing; the male is darker blue above, the female being entirely black-brown almost like the female of semiargus without any blue; the blue-green scaling on the hindwing beneath is entirely absent or nearly. — aeruginosa Stgr., from South Russia, Asia Minor (especially the Lebanon) into Central Asia, has the hindwing beneath entirely dusted with blue-green. — laetifica Pung., from the Ili R., has similar underside, but the blue of the upperside is purer and more brilliant in both sexes; the club of the antenna has a different shape (being more elongate) and is reddish yellow on the innerside, so that Pungeler regarded laetifica as being perhaps a distinct species. — Larva green or brownish, with reddish brown dorsal line accompanied by dark oblique parallel stripes which stand close together; head black. In June and the autumn on Cytisus, Genista, Astragalus, Melilotus, etc. Pupa greyish brown. North of the Alps, where occurs only one brood, the larva prohably hibernates. The butterflies occur singly but are mostly common, being found on clearings in timber-woods and on wide roads, where they flutter along usually 1 to 2 m above the ground, with a slow, straight, flapping flight. They appear in the South in the spring and again from July onwards, in the North only once, at the end of May and in June.[1]

References

  1. ^ Seitz, A. ed. Band 1: Abt. 1, Die Großschmetterlinge des palaearktischen Faunengebietes, Die palaearktischen Tagfalter, 1909, 379 Seiten, mit 89 kolorierten Tafeln (3470 Figuren)
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Glaucopsyche alexis: Brief Summary

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Lycaenidae - Glaucopsyche alexis.JPG

Glaucopsyche alexis, the green-underside blue, is a butterfly of the family Lycaenidae. It is found in the Palearctic.

The butterfly flies from April to July depending on the location, lingering in warm, lush meadows with plenty of its host plant, vetch (Vicia).

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