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The Western and Eastern Tailed Blue Butterfly
July 06, 2013

Welcome to the Flying Butterfly!

Both the Western and Eastern Tailed Blue Butterfly are very common.
Blues are Gossamer Winged Butterflies.

Other butterflies detailed in the Flying Butterfly include:
Buckeye Butterfly and the Monarch and Queen Butterfly

Gossamer Winged Butterflies are from the Lycaenidae Family, which also includes Coppers and Hairstreaks. As for the Tailed Blue Butterflies, these two are different from the other Blues because of their tails.

Combined, both Tailed Blue Butterflies are found throughout the United States, Canada and Northern Mexico. The Eastern Tailed Blue butterfly (Everes comynatas) is found from the east coast out as far west to North Dakota on down through parts of Texas. The Western Tailed Blue butterfly (Everes amyntula) is found from the west coast, throughout Canada as far east to the Great Lakes.

These two Tailed Blue butterflies are abundant in numbers and it is highly likely you'll see them. They are slower flyers and don't travel far. It is not uncommon for various colonies to go extinct periodically due to severe weather which affects their food and host plant sources. Populations do re-emerge.

Blues are some of the smallest butterflies. The Eastern Tailed Butterfly has a wing-
span up to 3/4 inch. The Western Tailed Blue Butterflies are slightly larger.

Eastern male butterflies are an iridescent blue on the top of their wings. A narrow black border outlines both front and back wings. The Western male has the same coloration only more pale.

Eastern and Western Tailed female butterfly colors vary more with brownish to grayish tones. As with the male, The female Western Tailed Blue is more pale.

Both the males and females of each species have a black and orange eye-spots on the tail of their hindwings. The Eastern Tailed Butterfly, however,
has two eye-spots and with the Western Tailed Blue there is only one.

Both Tailed Blue Butterflies have white-fringe running along their wings and one thread-like projection from their hindwings.

Caterpillars, or butterfly larva, are very small. The Eastern Tailed Blue caterpillar has brown stripes and the Western Tailed Blue has Purple-pink stripes. Larvae, or butterfly pupa, can vary with shades of tan to cream color. Pupa are also hairy.

Metamorphosis for Tailed Blues/Blues

This varies depending on regions. Egg and Larva for Tailed Blues are very difficult for humans to spot.

Interesting Points about Tailed Blue/Blue Butterflies

  • Their relationship to ants, which is unique to Lycaenidae butterflies.

    Blue Tailed Butterflies secrete a sweet honeydew rich with sugars and proteins providing food for ants. With ants dependent on these secretions they protect the Caterpillar from predators and parasites. Ants also groom themselves by brushing their legs and antennae on the caterpillar.

  • When basking, rather than have wings out flat as most butterflies do, the Tailed Blues have their wings at a 45 degree angle.

  • When males puddle, others follow forming what is called a 'puddle club'.

  • Blues (and Hairstreaks) rub their hindwings together while basking, feeding and puddling. By doing this predators mistake the hindwing eyespots as the head of the butterfly.

    Once the predator move in to attack the 'false' head, the butterfly can escape.

  • Outside of the tails, when all Blue butterflies have their wings down it is very difficult to distinguish different species. Once the wings are up, the bottom of the wing is where the different patterns are found allowing proper identification.

With exception, most Blues are found in open, sunny area, including the Western and Eastern Tailed Blue Butterflies. These can be both a natural habitat and man made.

Blues lay their eggs on immature flower buds or on the stems. These
are a hardy species and caterpillars often hibernate in the fruit pods
of their butterfly host plants.

Once hatched, butterfly caterpillars feed on those developing flower seeds. Be aware with your butterfly garden that those hosts they are attracted to could reduce early spring blooming.

After winter Eastern Tailed butterflies:

  • In the north emerge about May through September.
  • In the south they emerge late February/March through November.
The Western Tailed Blue butterflies:
  • Are seen about March through October/November, depending
    on area.
  • In the northern regions the Western Tailed has only on brood whereas in warmer climates like California the females will have several broods.

Butterfly Host Plants for Tailed Blues:

  • Clover (Trifolium spp), Both Red and White
  • Lupines (Lupinus spp)
  • Sweet Clovers (Melilotus spp)
  • Vetches (Vicia spp)
  • Legumes/Beans (Fabaceae)

Preferred Nectar Sources:

  • Legumes (Fabaceae)
  • Asters
  • Cinquefoils (Potentilla spp)
  • Clovers (Trifolium spp)
  • Yarrow (Achillea spp)
  • Butterfly Bushes (Buddleia)
  • Dame's Rocket (Hesperis matronalis)
  • Lavenders (Lavandula spp)
  • Mints (Mentha spp)
  • Zinnias (Ainnia spp)
  • Oregano (Origanum sp)

Consider growing an herb garden.
Blues are attracted to many kinds of scents.

Until next time, Happy Gardening!

Elizabeth @ Easy Butterfly Garden

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