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List: MassLep
Date: Fri, 26 Apr 2024 09:53:00 -0400
From: Steve Mirick <smirick...>
Subject: [MassLep] Azures in "Spring" in NH - what are they?

I've noticed that several butterfly folks out there are calling the=20
azures flying around right now (April & May) "Spring Azures" (celastrina=20
ladon) and entering them as such in iNaturalist.=C2=A0 It used to be that a=
ll=20
early spring azures in the northeast were called "Spring Azures", but=20
current research suggests that there are between 2 and 3 species of=20
Azures in April and May in New Hampshire.=C2=A0 These include the confusing=
ly=20
named (and possibly non-occurring) Spring Azure (celastrina ladon), the=20
Northern Azure (celastrina lucia), and the enigmatic Cherry Gall Azure=20
(celastrina serotina).=C2=A0 Identification of these three azures is close =
to=20
impossible based on just photos.=C2=A0 It's a real mess out there right now=
!

Specimens collected in Vermont during their 1st butterfly atlas showed=20
only Northern Azure and Cherry Gall Azure, but DID NOT show any records=20
of "Spring Azure"!=C2=A0 The common early spring flying azure in Vermont is=
=20
now called the Northern Azure (c. lucia).=C2=A0 This is also the case in=20
Maine where the most recent publication "Butterflies of Maine and the=20
Canadian Maritime Provinces" only indicates one species of Azure in the=20
spring and that is the Northern Azure (they don't show any records of=20
Cherry Gall Azure). They state that "Spring Azure" has NOT BEEN=20
CONFIRMED IN MAINE! Both Maine and Vermont now treat nearly all April=20
and May celastrinas (azures) as Northern Azure (C. lucuia).....with a=20
few Cherry Gall Azures in Vermont.

Based on this information, it seems likely (or at least possible) that=20
Spring Azures (C. ladon) do not occur at all in NH!!!!=C2=A0 And everything=
=20
flying right now may in fact best be called Northern Azure!!=C2=A0 The key=
=20
problem is that Spring Azure is almost impossible to ID from Northern=20
Azure without a specimen!=C2=A0 ONLY MALES CAN BE SAFELY IDENTIFIED BY=20
OVERLAPPING SCALE PATTERN UNDER A MICROSCOPE. Yikes!=C2=A0 Based on this=20
alone, we have no idea if "Spring Azures" occur in NH.

THE MAPS IN THE CURRENT FIELD GUIDES (Swift and Kauffman) DON'T REFLECT=20
THIS.=C2=A0 They show Spring Azures (C. ladon) as occurring throughout the=
=20
northeast and into southeastern Canada.=C2=A0 THIS IS FALSE as specimens fr=
om=20
Canada have shown that Spring Azures don't occur there except for a=20
couple of records.

The taxonomy is still evolving and the range of the Spring Azure is=20
still a mystery and it's actually possible there may be other hidden=20
species out there.=C2=A0 I've decided to call my early spring azures as jus=
t=20
"Azure" and enter all of my early spring records from April and May in=20
iNaturalist as "Holarctic Azures" (Celastrina sp.).=C2=A0 If you post to th=
is=20
list or submit azure photos to iNaturalist during these months, you may=20
want to follow this procedure until we figure this mess out!=C2=A0 Summer=
=20
sightings in late June and July are likely a different species "Summer=20
Azure" (c. neglecta), but that's another problem to sort out, and=20
another story...

If anyone out there has any more recent updates on research or opinions,=20
it would be interesting to know about.

Bryan Pfeiffer does a GREAT JOB in discussing this complex on his web=20
site.=C2=A0 Highly recommended.=C2=A0 Click on the download PDF file in the=
first=20
paragraph.

https://bryanpfeiffer.com/2018/04/02/getting-the-blues/

And if you want to dig deeper, here are some other articles for review:

https://zookeys.pensoft.net/articles.php?id=3D7882

https://bugguide.net/node/view/41017

Steve Mirick
Bradford, MA

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