North American Butterflies and Moths List

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Butterflies of North America

Butterflies of California

Boisduval's Blue (Plebeius [Icaricia] icarioides)
JPG -- species photo

Boisduval's Blue (Plebeius icarioides [Boisduval])

Wing span: 1 1/8 - 1 3/8 inches (2.9 - 3.5 cm).

Identification: Upperside of male lilac-blue with dark borders. Female may be brown, or blue with wide dark borders. Below, black or white postmedian spots are larger on forewing than on hindwing.

Life history: Males patrol during the day near host plants for females. Eggs are laid on new growth of host plants. Caterpillars feed first on leaves, then flowers and seedpods. Caterpillars produce a sugary secretion which is eaten by the ants that protect them. Second-stage caterpillars hibernate.

Flight: April-August depending on location.

Caterpillar hosts: Various lupine species (Lupinus) in the pea family.

Adult food: Nectar from flowers including Eriogonum and various composites.

Habitat: Forest clearings and edges, prairie, sagebrush, chaparral, coastal dunes, fields.

Range: British Columbia east to the western edge of the Great Plains, south to New Mexico, Arizona, southern California, and Baja California.

Conservation: The Mission Blue, subspecies missionensis, is endangered in California. Loss of native grassland habitat and invasion of woody species has restricted the butterfly to 4 areas on the northern tip of the San Francisco peninsula. The largest remaining population is protected in San Bruno Mountain County Park, where monitoring of the butterfly population and control of invasive species continues.

Plebeius icarioides missionensis has The Nature Conservancy rank of T1 - Critically imperiled because of extreme rarity (5 or fewer occurrences, or very few remaining individuals), or because of some factor of its biology making it especially vulnerable to extinction. (Critically endangered throughout its range).

Management needs: Maintain or improve habitat and ensure adequate host and nectar plants for all rare populations.


New, T. R., editor. 1993. Conservation Biology of Lycaenidae (Butterflies). 
    International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Gland, 
    Switzerland. 173 pages.

Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford  University Press, 
    Stanford, Calif. 583 pages, 64 color plates.

Tilden, J. W. 1986. A field guide to western butterflies.  Houghton-Mifflin Co., 
    Boston, Mass. 370 pages, 23 color plates.

Author: Jane M. Struttmann

State and Regional References:

Brown, J.W., Real, H.G., and D.K. Faulkner. 1992. Butterflies of Baja 
     California. Lepidoptera Research Foundation, Beverly Hills, Calif.

Comstock, J.A. 1927. Butterflies of California. Privately published, Los 
     Angeles, Calif. [Facsimile available from 	Entomological Reprint 
     Specialists, Los Angeles, Calif.]

Dameron, W. 1997. Searching for butterflies in southern California.
     Flutterby Press, Los Angeles, Calif.

Emmel, T.C. Editor. 1998. Systematics of western North American butterflies.
     Mariposa Press, Gainesville, Florida.

Emmel, T. C. and J. F. Emmel. 1973. The Butterflies of Southern California. 
     Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Science Series No. 26.

Garth, J.S. and J.W. Tilden. 1986. California Butterflies.  California Natural
     History Guide 51. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los 
Langston, R.L. 1981. The Rhopalocera of Santa Cruz Island, California. Journal
     of Research on the Lepidoptera 18: 24-35.     

Miller, Scott E. 1985. Butterflies of the Califorenia Channel Islands. Journal
     of the Research on the Lepidoptera 23: 282-296.     

Opler, Paul A. 1999. Peterson Field Guide to Western Butterflies, revised 
     edition. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Mass.

Orsak, L.J. 1977. The Butterflies of Orange County, California. Museum of 
     Systematic Biology, University of california, Irvine.

Stanford, R.E. and P.A. Opler. 1993. Atlas of Western USA Butterflies. 
     Privately published, Denver, Colo.

Steiner, J. 1990. Bay Area Butterflies: The Distribution and Natural History 
     of San Francisco Region Rhopalocera. Hayward, Calif.: Hayward State 
     University, Masters Thesis.

Tilden, J.W. and A.C. Smith. 1986. A Field Guide to Western Butterflies. 
     Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Mass.

Tilden, J.W. 1965. Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay Region. California 
     Natural History Guide 12. University of California Press, Berkeley and 
     Los Angeles.
Boisduval's Blue (Plebeius [Icaricia] icarioides)
distribution map
map legend

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