NZ LONG-TAILED BLUE (lampides boeticus)
In New Zealand, LONG-TAILED BLUE (lampides boeticus) is a self-introduced, naturalised butterfly. They prefer open habitat, although they live wherever larval food plants (particularly various species of legumes including gorse) are growing.
They generally lay their eggs individually on unopened flower buds. When they first hatch, caterpillars are pale yellow, but they quickly turn green or pink-brown. The caterpillars burrow into and eat immature flower buds and seeds. They are opportunists and cannibals, and if they run out of food, they will either pupate early, or eat other caterpillars of their own kind. They are 13-16mm when fully grown.
The caterpillars either form chrysalises or pupate inside seed pods. If they pupate in a seed pod, they must wait to emerge until the pod bursts—a wait that can last anywhere between 2 weeks to a year.
Males look different to females, sporting mostly blue upper-wings with brown edges as opposed to the female’s predominately brown wings with blue colouring toward their bodies. Both males and females possess eyespots and tails which they move up and down when resting, creating the appearance of a false head which is thought to distract predators. They usually fly fairly high in the air (over 1m above the ground) and have a rapid, jerky flight pattern. Females generally hang out fairly close to their food plants, while males often venture further away.
Range: They are are found in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and various Pacific Islands. In New Zealand, they typically reside across Northland, and can be found on the northern South Island, especially around Nelson.
Other related species : Common Blue, Southern Blue and the endemic Southern Blue (Zizina oxleyi). This occurs on the eastern South Island from North Canterbury south to Central Otago whereas the abundant Common Blue (Zizina labradus) is found along the West Coast, Nelson, Marlborough and throughout the North Island. The caterpillars of both species feed on legumes, especially the introduced clovers and medics, which grow along roadsides and on gravel wasteland and riverbeds.
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