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Photo for species Celastrina_ladon complex

As recently as the early 1990s, many scientists considered most North American azures as a single species (Celastrina ladon). More recently, however, research has revealed that there are, in fact, many different species of azures. One of the more common spring butterflies in the East, the holly azure (Celastrina idella) was not even recognized and named until 1999. These butterflies are quite tolerant of cold. They often appear early in the spring, when nights still dip below freezing. Amazingly, adults can even survive being buried in a few inches of snow.
 

 

 
Photo Credit:
2001-2009, University of Alberta, E.H. Strickland Entomological Museum.

Celastrina ladon complex

spring azure, Celastrina idella, Celastrina lucia, northern spring azure, purple azure, Edward’s azure, dogwood azure, American holly azure
What does this species look like?
What does this species look like?: 

Both sexes: Spring azures are clear blue above (females have black borders) and off-white below with various small, black spots. They have three forms: (1) lucia, which has a dark mark in the center of the hindwing below and dark brown along the edge of the wing; (2) marginata, which lacks the central mark but is also dark brown along the edge of the wing; (3) and violacea which has neither the dark mark nor brown along the wing edge (This form never has any orange spots or tails).

Males: Males are almost entirely blue above.

Females: Females have wide, black margins on all four of their wings, and a row of spots along the edges of the hindwings above. Underneath they are pale grayish or whitish with small black dots. 

Similar species: Cherry gall azures (Celastrina serotina) of the Northeast and Canada usually fly later than other spring azures. Summer azures (Celastrina neglecta) are usually larger and paler than spring azures, and they usually have substantial white on at least the hindwing above; they seldom occur in forests in early spring.
 

Where is this species found?
States & Provinces: 
AB, AK, AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MB, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NB, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NL, NM, NS, NT, NU, NV, NY, OH, OK, ON, OR, PA, PE, QC, RI, SC, SD, SK, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
Distribution

As a group spring azures occur in every state except Hawaii, and in all of non-arctic Canada.  The range of C. ladon alone includes parts of New York, Wisconsin, Texas, Florida and almost all intervening areas.  Populations in southern New England are probably a race of this species based on structural features, although they look more like C. lucia.  C. idella occurs on the coastal plain from New Jersey to Georgia.  C. lucia of auhors occurs in most of Canada, in the Rocky Mountains of central Colorado (David Wright, pers. comm. to DFS, 2009), and in northern parts of the U.S. from North Dakota eastward to New England, as well as higher parts of Pennsylvania and New York, and in most of the southern New Jersey coastal plain.  All three occur together in a narrow band in southern New Jersey.  Distribution of western species remains to be resolved, but the genus occurs in woodlands almost everywhere except for much of Texas, southeast California, and southwest Arizona. Azures also occur in the Mexican mountains.
Adults are usually seen flying in the understory or along paths or forests or woodlands. Unlike summer azures, the spring species are rarely found in yards and thickets. The males often sip from moist soil and both sexes visit flowers such as highbush blueberry and spicebush.
 

General Phenology and Life History

Spring azures begin to fly in March or April, and are usually active for less than a month. They begin mating and laying eggs just a few days after they emerge, and eggs hatch a few days later. Larvae mature in a little over a month, and they spend the rest of the year is spent as a pupa (chrysalis).
 

 

 
Special Considerations for Observing

 

 

 
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Activity

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Active adults
One or more adults are seen moving about or at rest.

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Flower visitation
One or more individuals are seen visiting flowers or flying from flower to flower. If possible, record the name of the plant or describe it in the comments field.

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Reproduction

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Mating
A male and female are seen coupled in a mating position, usually end to end. This can occur at rest or in flight.

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Development

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Active caterpillars
One or more caterpillars (larvae) are seen moving about or at rest. When seen on a plant, if possible, record the name of the plant or describe it in the comments field.

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Caterpillars feeding
One or more caterpillars are seen feeding. If possible, record the name of the species or substance being eaten or describe it in the comments field.

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Dead adults
One or more dead adults are seen, including those found on roads.

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Dead caterpillars
One or more dead caterpillars are seen, including those found on roads.

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Method

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Individuals at a feeding station
One or more individuals are seen visiting a feeder, feeding station, or food placed by a person.

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Individuals in a net
One or more individuals are seen caught in a net.

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