Tiny Blue Killer Butterflies

Thanks so much to BugGuide for the ID help. I sent in a request and got an answer in less than a day.

Male Ceraunus Blue Butterfly, tattered wings open
Male Ceraunus Blue Butterfly, tattered wings open
Ceraunus Blue
Ceraunus Blue

Killer Butterflies, Beware

If you think a tiny butterfly fluttering around wild flowers is the very picture of sweetness and light, let me tear that illusion in two now and forever. BZZZPHT! This bad boy is no vegan hippy.

When Ceraunus butterflies are caterpillars, looking a bit like slugs if I may say so, they will sometimes establish false relationships with ants. Like aphids, they will exude a sugar to attract ants who then protect the caterpillars from predators.

Unlike aphids, these caterpillars won’t allow themselves to be exploited or farmed. Should any ant get too bothersome, the caterpillar will EAT him.

DSCN7657
Ceraunus Blue, wings closed and friend

The pictures above are of a male Ceraunus Blue butterfly. The word ceraunus comes from a Greek word for thunderbolt. The male’s wings really did flash an electric blue on flight. The female’s wings are a kind of stormy blue-grey.

This was the tiniest butterfly I have ever seen: about the size of a fingernail. They seemed to fly frantically — nearly non stop — otherwise I am sure I would have overlooked them.

Want Some?

I do. even if they are killers. They live in Texas, Florida and places further south. I saw several this week in a field of little bluestem, asters and one unknown (to me) tiny pink flower that seemed to occupy their attention. I want that flower in my garden. Their official host plants seem to be mostly legumes: partridge pea, rosary pea, bundleflower, clovers and indigofera.

I kind of get the impression these are far from rare. They can produce multiple generations in one year so I bet someone out there considers them a pest.

Not me. Coincidentally, I planted some indigofera last weekend and I’ve got some bundleflower seeds in the fridge. If I am lucky maybe I’ll see some tiny blue killer butterflies fluttering around my garden next year.

More about the butterfly and ant association can be found here.

Mystery Plant. Grows along the ground a bit like a vine. Someone probably will call it a weed.
Mystery Plant. Grows along the ground a bit like a vine. Someone probably will call it a weed.
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14 thoughts on “Tiny Blue Killer Butterflies

  1. there is a little mob of white cabbage butterfles dancing around the garden at the moment particularly hovering over the pattersons curse or the name I like better is salvation jane – dont tell anyone but I have a glorious patch of them outside my bedroom all purple pink flowers and sticky leaves- hot day so the bees are sucking up to them as well. most people find the cabbage moth a real pest and yes it is for serious gardeners but with my garden on hold I am able to seriuosly indulge in my love affair with them.
    loved your little blue fella
    Sandra

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    1. Cabbage moths do dance. I love watching their movements. I love the names of things over there. pattersons curse … salvation jane … magic. I looked them up. They look so pretty. Hard to believe they could be a pest.

      Like

  2. I love butterflies – half of my photo archive on my laptop is made up of pictures of them! These sound like a fascinating species. Unfortunately I don’t think we get them in the UK:(

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    1. I like butterflies a lot, too. I am only just getting to learn more about them. I doubt it gets warm enough in the UK for these little guys but you have no shortage of lovelies to take their place.

      Liked by 1 person

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