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Aug 15

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The Spring Azure, Celastrina ladon

Spring Azure butterfly

Spring Azure butterfly, Photo by Dawn Weber

I was walking in Manchester, Missouri’s Seibert Park the end of May when a small blue butterfly caught my eye. I followed the Spring Azure, Celastrina ladon (form violacea) as it collected minerals from a small piece of rotting timber. They often extract vitamins & minerals from animal dropping, carrion and rotting wood. Lovely, huh?  

The identification of the Spring Azure is well, both complicated and controversial. Now, North American Butterfly Association is recognizing subspecies, Appalachian and Summer. Most folks distinguish the species by location, flight time and association with host plant. I’ve read that their flight for all species is weak. Often they only venture less than one hundred meters from their origin. If that were true, it would be gratifying in this case because it would be another creature sustained by ecological restoration efforts at Seibert Park.

It was moving its hind wings to and fro. I’ve searched far and wide for a word to describe this behavior but to no avail. I recall years ago Bill Hoss pointing it out to me as we observed an Eastern Tailed Blue. They both belong to the Lycaenidae family which includes Blues, Hairstreaks, Elfins, Coppers and Harvesters. When the Eastern Tailed Blue moved its hindwings, his tiny tails were mimicking the movement of his antennae. It was intended to confuse its predator to think its tail end was really its head so he/she had a better chance to escape.

I made a short video of this behavior

 According to Butterflies and Dragonflies of Illinois, Spring Azure caterpillars feed on sumacs, wild cherry, dogwoods and New Jersey tea. Three of those grow in the park. Two of the three are recently introduced. If their flight is so weak that they don’t ever fly much distance from their origins, it gives me “hopeful testimony” that they’re doing something right for Missouri’s fauna at Seibert Park.

 

 

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About the author

Cori Westcott

Cori serves as a Habitat Advisor for St. Louis Audubon Society’s Bring Conservation Home program, assisting landowners in restoring native plant and animal habitat. Her own yard is certified Platinum and will be featured on the 2017 Native Plant Garden Tour. Cori is a past president of Missouri Master Naturalist, Great Rivers Chapter. She also coordinates monitoring efforts in the Grand Glaize Creek watershed for Missouri Stream Team.

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