Friday, May 8, 2020

Western Azure

At the forest edge on 1 May 2020. our muddy logging road through Kennedy Flats in Mason County west of Olympia took us through a blackberry patch. Dozens of bright, chalky-blue butterflies apparently gathered moisture or minerals from the mud. As Erika strolled by, the butterflies flew up, unpredictably darting back and forth. They closed their wings when they landed. I was never able to capture an image of their blue upperwings.

These butterflies are Western Azures (aka Echo Azures)—Celastrina echo. They can be identified from other blues (a genus of butterflies) by not sporting tails off their hind-wings. Their underwings are chalky white with blackish-gray spots (Butterflies and Moths). No orange spots appear under the wings. The species ranges from southwestern Canada, across much of the western United States, and into northwestern Mexico. There is also a record from Guatemala. They inhabit Woodlands, shrublands, and riparian corridors. That we found them near blackberries is probably not coincidental. Blackberries are among the plants prefered by the butterflies’ caterpillars (MT Field Guide; Butterflies and Moths).

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