Friday, October 9, 2009

Nature Guide: Eastern Tailed-Blue Butterfly

As the weather turns cooler, there are fewer butterflies in our area. An occasional Monarch passes through, heading south to its wintering grounds in Mexico. Cabbage Whites are still around but will disappear with the first frost. Even so, there are some butterflies you can still see along our trails. Our Nature Guide Jon Latimer tells us about one of them — the brightly colored Eastern Tailed-Blue. (Click on the photos to see a larger image.)

"Only about an inch long with a wingspan of 7/8 to 1 1/8 inches, the Eastern Tailed-Blue is commonly found in sunny, weedy fields, especially around patches of clover or alfalfa. The upper side of a male's wings is usually blue. The wings of some females are paler blue while others are brown. The color of the underside of either gender ranges from bluish white to tan. If you can get a close look, you may see a very narrow tail on the lower part of each wing, which gives this butterfly its name. You may also notice several distinct black spots on the underside of the wing, along with two or three large orange spots at the outer edge, near the tail.

"Eastern Tailed-Blues tend to fly close to the ground, but they sometimes bask with their wings at a 45 degree angle. During warm weather adult Eastern Tailed-Blues lay three broods of eggs, from April to October or November. The dark green caterpillar hibernates in winter, becoming a pupa and then an adult the following spring."