Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: ¾ - 1¾ inches (2.2 - 2.9 cm) UPPER SURFACE (dorsal) Male iridescent blue. Summer female uniformly brown; spring female smaller with much blue at wing bases. UNDER SURFACE (ventral) Hindwing pale gray with black bar; distinct black spots and three large orange spots at outer margin near the tail. One hindwing tail.

ID Tip: The only blue with tails. Orange chevrons are located near tails on both upperside and underside wing surfaces.

Egg: Pale green; flattened disc. Laid singly, often on or near buds of host.

Caterpillar: Color varies: green; green and red; mostly red. Dorsal stripe and lateral lines. Body covered with fine white hairs. Head black. The overwintering stage.

Chrysalis: Color varies: whitish green with darker head and thorax; dark green; tan. Bean shaped.

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Throughout most of the state, Eastern Tailed-Blues are familiar sights in fields, pastures, roadsides, and other open, sunny areas.  They are the most encountered Blue in Alabama, and the only one with tails. Several generations occur, and populations build as the summer progresses.  ETB flight is weak and fluttery, and these tiny butterflies generally stay close to the ground. They often bask with wings partially open, allowing good looks at dorsal surfaces. Males sometimes congregate in large groups to seek nutrients from damp soil.  Both sexes are attracted to small, low-growing flowers. 

Like other blues, Eastern Tailed-Blue caterpillars are primarily flower and bud eaters. They are often colored like the flowers they ingest. Ants are often in attendance because the caterpillars secrete a sugary substance from a special abdominal organ. To safeguard this treat, ants provide some protection from predators. 

Two tailed-blue species (genus Cupido) occur in the continental United States. Eastern and Western Tailed-Blues are comprised of several subspecies. Our familiar "tailed-blue" flies throughout much of the East with the exclusion of peninsular Florida.  In Alabama, they are extremely common in central and north Alabama, but populations decline in southern counties. 

 

Distribution and Abundance

A dot on the county map indicates that there is at least one documented record of the species within that county. In some cases, a species may be common throughout the county, in others it may be found in only a specific habitat. The High Count information shows the highest numbers recorded for this species as well as when and where they occurred.

The sightings bar graphs depict the timing of flight(s) within each of three geographic regions. Place your cursor on a bar within the graph to see the number of individuals recorded during that period.

The abundance calendar displays the total number of individuals recorded within each week of the month. Both the graphs and the calendar are on based data collection that began in 2000.

The records analyzed here are only a beginning. As more data is collected, these maps and graphs will paint a more accurate picture of distribution and abundance in Alabama. Submit your sightings to albutterflyatlas@gmail.com.

Sightings in the following counties: Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Bibb, Blount, Bullock, Butler, Calhoun, Chambers, Cherokee, Chilton, Clarke, Clay, Cleburne, Colbert, Coosa, Covington, Crenshaw, Cullman, Dallas, DeKalb, Elmore, Escambia, Etowah, Fayette, Franklin, Geneva, Greene, Hale, Houston, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Lee, Limestone, Macon, Madison, Marengo, Marion, Marshall, Mobile, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Randolph, Russell, Shelby, St. Clair, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Walker, Washington, Wilcox, Winston

  • Map Symbol for Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Map Symbol for Semi-Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Map Symbol for Old Sightings Sightings more than 10 years ago

High count(s):

  • 115 - Madison - 6/16/2017
  • 74 - Jefferson - 10/4/2012
  • 50 - Jackson - 4/24/2014
County Distribution Map

View county names by moving the mouse over a county or view a map with county names

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1 1 2 10 82 296 306 177 274 153 108 116 133 231 165 223 357 114 120 111 151 172 116 118 123 129 290 279 165 299 248 84 29 15 5 3 1

Habitat

A wide variety of open, disturbed sites including roadsides, pastures, and even yards.

Eastern Tailed-Blue
Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)
County
© Sara Bright
Wet meadow
Eastern Tailed-Blue
Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)
County
© Paulette Haywood Ogard
Utility right-of-way
Eastern Tailed-Blue
Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)
County
© Paulette Haywood Ogard
Disturbed area
Eastern Tailed-Blue
Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)
County
© Paulette Haywood Ogard
Dry meadow
Eastern Tailed-Blue
Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)
County
© Sara Bright
Sunny stream
Eastern Tailed-Blue
Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)
County
© Sara Bright
Meadow with nectar sources
Eastern Tailed-Blue
Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)
County
© Sara Bright
Power cut
Eastern Tailed-Blue
Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)
County
© Sara Bright
Pasture
Eastern Tailed-Blue
Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)
County
© Sara Bright
Suburban garden

Host and Nectar Plants

Members of the Pea family (Fabaceae), especially clovers (Trifolium spp.) and vetches (Vicia spp.) are reported in throughout the range. 

The following have been documented in Alabama, but additional pea family members are probably used as well.

For more information about these plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the links above.

Eastern Tailed-Blue
Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)
County
© Sara Bright
Spiked Hoary Pea
Eastern Tailed-Blue
Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)
County
© Alvin Diamond
Spiked Hoary Pea
Eastern Tailed-Blue
Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)
County
© Karen Chiasson
White Clover
Eastern Tailed-Blue
Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)
County
© Richard Buckner/AL Plant Atlas
Red Clover
Eastern Tailed-Blue
Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)
County
© Dan Spaulding
Downy Milk Pea
Eastern Tailed-Blue
Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)
County
© Theo Witsell
Downy Milk Pea
Eastern Tailed-Blue
Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)
County
© Sara Bright
Carolina Vetch

Landscaping Ideas

Many people provide Eastern Tailed-Blues with habitat without ever realizing it. Less-than-manicured garden edges, alleyways, and natural lawns are often abundant with the small pea-family plants that provide their tiny caterpillars with food. If you have a lawn in your landscape, consider letting it be natural. These areas often contain small flowering plants like clover, frogfruit, and violets that provide nectar sources for many small butterflies, including Eastern Tailed-Blues.