A Copper Butterfly in Disguise

For all intents and purposes this looks like a blue butterfly (as in subfamily Polyommatinae)… it’s very, very blue after all.  But assumptions based on color would lead you down the incorrect road; as it turns out this butterfly is actually a species copper.  There are subtle difference in wing shape and probably venation, but when I first saw these butterflies I assumed they were a sub-species of Plebejus icarioides (which were also flying at this location on the Kaibab Plateau).  But then I began seeing female butterflies (below) interacting with these blues and then it dawned on me – blue copper – Lycaena heteronea austin (Lycaenidae: Lycaeninae)!

This subspecies was originally described in 1998 by the late, great George T. Austin as L. heteronea rutila.  Given however that rutila more or less = rutilus, it was later determined rutila was actually unavailable and the subspecies name was changed to austin in honor of George.

Grinter Lycaena heteroena austin

male Lycaena heteroena austin (Lycaenidae)

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female Lycaena heteroena austin


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