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Spring Azure

Celastrina ladon ladon (Cramer, 1780)

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Adult ventral photo (Click to enlarge)
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Adult ventral photo (Click to enlarge)
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Adult ventral photo (Click to enlarge)
Distribution Map
Ohio county distribution
Records by Month
Flight period (Temporal distribution)

STATUS: Resident; common.

DISTRIBUTION/RANGE: Statewide (see map). This species has been recorded from all 88 counties.

HABITAT: This butterfly is most often associated with deciduous forests and adjacent open areas. It is also occasionally encountered in old fields, brushy fields, swamps, and, to some extent, urban habitats such as parks and gardens. Spring brood individuals are more closely associated with forests than are individuals from the later broods.

HOSTPLANT(S): In Ohio, larvae have been found on flowering dogwood (Studebaker and Studebaker, 1967). Females have been observed ovipositing on wing-stem and gray dogwood. Throughout eastern North America, this species uses a wide variety of hostplants from several families (Opler and Krizek, 1984). In Michigan, the larvae are usually tended by ants (Harvey and Webb, 1980).

ADULT ENERGY RESOURCES: Redbud, white clover, yellow sweet clover, wild carrot, wild parsnip, narrowleaf dogwood, flowering dogwood, early saxifrage, wing-stem, common boneset, New Jersey tea, violet, pussy-toes, staghom sumac, hawthorn, rhubarb, blackberry, and a wide variety of garden flowers. This species also imbibes moisture from mud, soil wetted with urine, feces, and carrion such as dead crayfish and amphibians. Celastrina ladon is often found, especially in spring, congregating in large numbers around mud puddles.

FLIGHT PERIOD: Three to four overlapping broods throughout the summer (see graph). Extreme dates range from 4 March to 12 September.

SIMILAR SPECIES: Celastrina ladon is very similar to the other Celastrina species. However, Dusky Blue (Celastrina ebenina) males are easily identified by their sooty black dorsal color, which is unique. Female C. ebenina have wide, dark dorsal hindwing margins and black scaling on the dorsal wing veins. In C. ladon, both of these traits are absent. Celastrina ladon also is very similar to the larger Appalachian Blue (C. neglecta-major), and these two species are difficult to separate. Ventrally, C. ladon usually has a well defined black spot pattern, whereas in C. neglecta-major these spots are greatly reduced, and the ventral wing surfaces seem almost white. The forewing fringe of C. ladon is plain, but in C. neglecta-major the fringe is checkered. Finally, the black margin on the dorsal forewing of C. ladon is widened at the apex, but in C. neglecta-major the black margin is the same width along its length. Note the flight period of C. neglecta-major before considering this determination for questionable specimens. Confusing specimens that fall well out of C. neglecta-major's flight period are probably referable to the summer broods of C. ladon that have a washed-out appearance. If in doubt, have an expert identify the specimens.

GENERAL COMMENTS: Celastrina ladon, with its numerous variations and forms, is a very complicated species that is not yet fully understood. Prior to 1970, most experts agreed that one species of Celastrina occurred in North America; now three species are recognized. Current research suggests that several additional sibling species are still included within the C. ladon complex, and it is likely that additional species occur in Ohio (David M. Wright, pers comm, 1987). When current studies are completed, four or more species could be recognized as occurring in Ohio. In addition to the problems associated with sibling species, taxonomists have disagreed about the correct name for this species. In the past, this species was called Celastrina argiolus L., but current thinking limits this name to European populations, and C. ladon is used for populations occurring in North America.

In Ohio, C. ladon is multiple brooded, and produces up to four broods per year. Later broods tend to be less common than the spring brood. There are two seasonal phenotypes. Individuals of the spring brood, form 'violacea' (W. H. Edwards, 1866), are smaller and darker than individuals of subsequent broods, form 'neglecta' (W. H. Edwards, 1862). Spring individuals with wide submarginal bands on both wings (form 'marginata' W.H. Edwards, 1883), are rare in Ohio, but have been recorded from several counties (Morrow, Lake, Cuyahoga, and Williams Counties). In Ohio, this form is best considered an extreme expression of the form 'violacea' (David M. Wright, pers comm, 1989).

Henninger (1910) reported "Lycaena pseudargiolus lucia" from Seneca County, presumably in reference to the northern "subspecies" C. ladon lucia (W. Kirby, 1837). This single brooded "subspecies" is characterized by large dark patches on the ventral hindwings. We have not seen any Ohio material representing C. ladon lucia, but this "subspecies" could occur in extreme northern Ohio.

Although C. ladon is not as abundant as the Tailed Blue (Everes comyntas), C. ladon is by far the most conspicuous blue in Ohio. It is one of the first species to fly each spring, and is a common sight before most spring flowers are in bloom. The flight of this species is not particularly rapid, but it is erratic. Adults fly from ground level to tree top height, and adults tend to fly over obstacles rather than through or around them. They are often observed flying around and settling on the tops of bushes and shrubs. Adults are avid flower and mud puddle visitors.

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