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Montana Field Guides

Melissa Blue - Plebejus melissa


Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S5

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General Description
[From Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glasberg 2001; Pyle 2002] Forewing 1.2-1.5 cm. Sexes dimorphic. Uppersurface of male blue, female brown with submarginal orange trim on both wings; undersurface of both wings with continuous black line on outer edge of iridescent blue-green points distal to red-orange submarginal band, submarginal band usually extending onto forewings, black points where hindwing veins intersect black marginal line, fringes uncheckered.

Phenology
Several flights, late May to early September in the southern mountains, otherwise April to October southward; one flight, late June to July in Alberta, mid-July to mid-August at higher elevations (Scott 1986). Mainly two flights, May to September but one flight at higher elevations (Glassberg 2001). April to October in the southern Rocky Mountain region (Ferris and Brown 1981), early May to mid-September in Colorado (Scott and Scott 1978), late April to late September in Oregon and Washington (Pyle 2002), early May through September in Oregon (Warren 2005), mid-May to early September in British Columbia (Guppy and Shepard 2001).

Diagnostic Characteristics
Best determined by combination of uppersurface of male blue, female brown with submarginal orange trim on both wings, undersurface with continuous black line on outer edge of iridescent blue-green points distal to red-orange submarginal band, submarginal band usually extending onto forewings.

Species Range
Montana Range

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Range Comments
Southern British Columbia east to southern Manitoba, south through the western US to northern Baja, western Texas, and mainland Mexico, mainly plains and intermountain areas; also scattered populations in upper Midwest and northeastern US (Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001; Pyle 2002); 1310 m to 3230 m elevation but usually under 2743 m in Colorado (Scott and Scott 1978; Ferris and Brown 1981), usually below 914 m elevation in Oregon and Washington (Pyle 2002), 26 m to at least 2255 m elevation but usually less than 1371 m in Oregon (Warren 2005), below 305 m elevation in British Columbia (Guppy and Shepard 2001). In Montana, reported from all counties in the state (Kohler 1980; Stanford and Opler 1993). Common (Glassberg 2001).

Summary of Observations Submitted for Montana
Number of Observations: 20

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Relative Density

Recency

 

(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)



Migration
Non-migratory.

Habitat
Native prairie, dry montane meadows, alfalfa fields, weedy areas, fallow fields, sagebrush steppe (Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001; Pyle 2002). In the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, reported in xeric montane meadows dominated by sagebrush (Debinski et al. 2013).

Food Habits
Larval food plants include several species of Astragalus, Glycyrrhiza, Hedysarum, Lotus, several species of Lupinus, Medicago, Oxytropis, Sphaerophysa, Swainsona, and Vicea (Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986, 1992, 2006; Pyle 2002; Warren 2005; James and Nunnallee 2011). Adults feed on flower nectar (including Achillea, Allium, Astragalus, Barbarea, Berteroa, Ceanothus, Centaurea, Chrysothamnus, Cirsium, Croton, Dalea, Delphinium, Erigeron, Eriogonum, Erysimum, Grindelia, Gutierrezia, Heterotheca, Hymenopappus, Hymenoxys, Kuhnia, Lesquerella, Liatris, Linum, Lygodesmia, Machaeranthera, Medicago, Melilotus, Oxytropis, Potentilla, Psoralea, Rorippa, Sedum, Senecio, Solidago, Symphyotrichum, Trifolium, Verbena, Viguiera), urine, and mud (Pyle 2002; Scott 2014).

Reproductive Characteristics
Females lay eggs singly on host plant stem, underside of leaflet, in debris or on grass blade near base of plant (Scott 1986, 1992, 2006). Number of eggs per ovariole (1/8 of total) about 60 (Ehrlich and Ehrlich 1978). Eggs hatch in about 8 days, develop to L4 instar and pupate in about 24 days after oviposition (16 days after egg-hatch), adults eclose (emerge from pupae) in 8 days. Other eggs diapause (overwinter), hatch in about 3 days after exiting diapause. Larvae do not construct nest, feed nocturnally, retreat under base of host plant during day, are often attended by ants. Pupation occurs under host plant in soil and under basal leaves (Warren 2005; James and Nunnallee 2011). Report that larvae or pupae may overwinter (Scott 1979) apparently is incorrect and was later corrected (Scott 1986, 1992). Males patrol throughout the day near host plants in search of females (Scott 1975b, 1986; James and Nunnalee 2011).

References
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Citation for data on this website:
Melissa Blue — Plebejus melissa.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from