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List: MassLep
Date: Fri, 26 Apr 2024 10:05:48 -0400
From: Nancy E. Burke <nanburke...>
Subject: RE: [MassLep] Azures in "Spring" in NH - what are they?

I think at least we'll have to sort out the "flyby" reports from the photos=
, to begin with, and just call the flyby's "Azure" as you suggest. A lot o=
f the reports I've seen were flyby's, including mine this week.
Thanks for this clarification.

Nan Burke
Westborough, MA

-----Original Message-----
From: <masslep...> [mailto:<masslep...>] On Behalf =
Of Steve Mirick
Sent: Friday, April 26, 2024 9:53 AM
To: NHButterfly <NHButterfly...>; Mass Leps <masslep@googlegr=
oups.com>
Subject: [MassLep] Azures in "Spring" in NH - what are they?

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

Specimens collected in Vermont during their 1st butterfly atlas showed only=
Northern Azure and Cherry Gall Azure, but DID NOT show any records of "Spr=
ing Azure"! The common early spring flying azure in Vermont is now called =
the Northern Azure (c. lucia). This is also the case in Maine where the mo=
st recent publication "Butterflies of Maine and the Canadian Maritime Provi=
nces" only indicates one species of Azure in the spring and that is the Nor=
thern Azure (they don't show any records of Cherry Gall Azure). They state =
that "Spring Azure" has NOT BEEN CONFIRMED IN MAINE! Both Maine and Vermont=
now treat nearly all April and May celastrinas (azures) as Northern Azure =
(C. lucuia).....with a few Cherry Gall Azures in Vermont.

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

THE MAPS IN THE CURRENT FIELD GUIDES (Swift and Kauffman) DON'T REFLECT THI=
S. They show Spring Azures (C. ladon) as occurring throughout the northeas=
t and into southeastern Canada. THIS IS FALSE as specimens from Canada hav=
e shown that Spring Azures don't occur there except for a couple of records=
.

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

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

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

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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