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Restharrow's blue ♂ (Polyommatus icarus)

Restharrow's blue ♂ ( Polyommatus icarus )

Class : Insects (Insecta)
Subclass : Flying insects (Pterygota)
Superordinate : New winged wing (Neoptera)
Order : Butterflies (Lepidoptera)
Subordination : Glossata
Family : Blues
Scientific name
Leach , 1815
Argus blue ( Plebejus argus )
Bluish on a flower
Large fire butterfly ♂ ( Lycaena dispar )
Holly Blue females ( Celastrina argiolus )

The bluebells (Lycaenidae) are a family of butterflies ( butterflies ). They occur worldwide with approx. 5200 species in 416 genera (status: 2011). Many males of the European species have blue-colored wing tops, hence the name.


The moths reach a wingspan of 24 to a maximum of 50 millimeters. Their forewings are compact and only 1.4 to 1.9 times longer than they are wide. The upper sides of the wings are predominantly colored dark brown, copper, blue or purple. In some species the wing tops have a metallic sheen. On the underside, many species have a pattern of dark, sometimes light-edged spots. The species, which are very difficult to distinguish, are easy to identify on closer inspection. Some species have eye spots and antennae-like tails on the edge of the hind wing, with which they outsmart predators by reversing their sitting position and thus can recognize attackers who are supposed to be creeping up from behind at an early stage.

The forewings have 10 or 11 wing veins , in which the seventh vein is missing or the eighth and ninth are also fused. You only have one anal vein (1b). The hind wings have nine veins and two anal veins (1a and 1b). The veins 3 and 4 are grown together. Their antennae, which are culled at the end, are short to medium-long and usually about half as long as the fore wing length. Besides their compound eyes, the moths have no point eyes ( ocelli ). They have no maxillary palps , and their three-segment lip palps ( labial palps ) point upwards. They have a fully developed, non-scaled proboscis . All of their six legs are well developed, but the males' forelegs are often shortened and unusable for walking.

The animals often show sexual dichroism . The females are colored differently than the males, especially on the upper sides of their wings.

Fresh in a ants nest hatched myrmecophile Bläulinge as Blue butterflies escape because they bewachste scales bear which they tracked node ants irritate and obstruct a while to overpower the young butterfly.

Characteristics of the caterpillars

The caterpillars have a compact, clumsy and mostly flattened body. The basic color of the European species is predominantly green. Their hair is usually short and dense. Few species are hairy or glabrous longer.

Way of life

The diurnal moths usually fold their wings in the resting position and rarely open them.

The caterpillars of over 75% of the world's species are myrmekophil . That means that they live on or with ants . Among them there are parasitic , trophobiotic or predatory species. They live together with ants in their burrows and either feed on their larvae or are fed by the ants like the caterpillars of the gentian blue ant ( Maculinea alcon ). Some herbivorous species attract ants with their sweet droppings so that the ants guard them on their plants. Most of them have adapted to life with ants over time and, in addition to special glands that secrete honeydew , have, for example, the same smell as that of the ant larvae so that they are not treated as intruders in the ant burrow. Some species can also make vibrations and noises, which they use to attract ants. Some species have developed one or more of the following adaptations to protect against ant bites: a thickened cuticle and isle-shaped shape, a head that can be retracted under the prothoracic shield, and thick hair.

Food of the caterpillars

The herbivorous species feed mainly on legumes (Fabaceae), but some on the heather family (Ericaceae), mint family (Lamiaceae), rockrose family (Cistaceae) or cranesbill family (Geraniaceae). There are numerous species that are highly specialized and in which the caterpillars feed monophag on a certain plant species. In addition, there are species that are extremely true to their location, such as the blue cranesbill ( Plebejus eumedon ), which only lives on a few square meters around its plant and only sucks its nectar.


The eggs are usually somewhat flattened or spherical. The caterpillars pupate predominantly in a girdle doll attached to the forage plant , or else - z. Partly without a belt thread - on the ground or underground. When touched, the pupae are able to stridulate , which is intended to deter attackers.

Hazard and protection

Because so many species are highly specialized, they are very vulnerable to interfering with their habitats. In the meantime, for example, almost all species in Central Europe are to be regarded as endangered and worldwide 30% of the butterflies classified as endangered belong to the bluebirds. Species such as the blue gentian ant blue ( Maculinea alcon ), whose caterpillars feed on phytophagus and are later carried by ants into their nests, are particularly sensitive . They depend on the location of the forage plants and the presence of similarly endangered species of ants. The Miami blue , Hemiargus thomasi ( English Miami Blue ) was considered extinct for six years in a row .


The division of the family into subfamilies is unclear and is scientifically controversial. For a long time, the basis of the classification was a classification according to JNEliot, which distinguished eight subfamilies. Later, the same author distinguished only three, extremely broad subfamilies, of which only the Lycaeninae would occur in Central Europe. Most taxonomists, however, have not followed this view. Seven subfamilies are widely recognized today, but many editors alternatively combine the Polyommatinae and Theclinae in a wide-lined subfamily Lycaeninae, so that in their opinion only four subfamilies exist.

  • Curetinae. only genus Curetis . tropical southeast asia.
  • Poritiinae. 54 genera, more than 580 species. Africa and Tropical East Asia.
  • Miletinae. 15 genera, 150 species, in many of which the caterpillars are predatory or parasitic. Mainly in the tropics of the Old World, few species Holarctic.
  • Aphnaeinae. 17 genera, 278 species. Africa (one genus, cigaritis also in Asia, east to Japan)
  • Lycaeninae
  • Polyommatinae
  • Theclinae

Central European species

Of these subfamilies there are three with 140 species and subspecies in Europe . The list below includes all Central European species.

Subfamily Lycaeninae

Subfamily Theclinae

Subfamily Polyommatinae

More types

Europe / Africa


Asia / Australia


  • Tom Tolman, Richard Lewington: The butterflies of Europe and Northwest Africa . Franckh-Kosmos, Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 3-440-07573-7 .
  • Hans-Josef Weidemann: Butterflies: observe, determine . Naturbuch-Verlag, Augsburg 1995, ISBN 3-89440-115-X .
  • Butterflies. 2. Special part: Satyridae, Libytheidae, Lycaenidae, Hesperiidae . In: Günter Ebert, Erwin Rennwald (eds.): The butterflies of Baden-Württemberg . 1st edition. tape 2 . Ulmer, Stuttgart (Hohenheim) 1991, ISBN 3-8001-3459-4 .
  • Heiko Bellmann : The new Kosmos butterfly guide, butterflies, caterpillars and forage plants . Franckh-Kosmos, Stuttgart 2003, ISBN 3-440-09330-1 .
  • Klaus Dumpert: The social life of ants. Parey, Berlin / Hamburg 1994, ISBN 3-489-63636-8 .
  • Felix Riedel: Identification key for bluebells (Lycaenidae) . Natural history contribution of the DJN No. 34, [2]

Web links

Commons : Bläulinge  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Bläuling  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Erik J. van Nieukerken, Lauri Kaila, Ian J. Kitching, Niels P. Kristensen, David C. Lees, Joël Minet, Charles Mitter, Marko Mutanen, Jerome C. Regier, Thomas J. Simonsen, Niklas Wahlberg, Shen-Horn Yen, Reza Zahiri, David Adamski, Joaquin Baixeras, Daniel Bartsch, Bengt Å. Bengtsson, John W. Brown, Sibyl Rae Bucheli, Donald R. Davis, Jurate De Prins, Willy De Prins, Marc E. Epstein, Patricia Gentili-Poole, Cees Gielis, Peter Hättenschwiler, Axel Hausmann, Jeremy D. Holloway, Axel Kallies , Ole Karsholt, Akito Y. Kawahara, Sjaak (JC) Koster, Mikhail V. Kozlov, J. Donald Lafontaine, Gerardo Lamas, Jean-François Landry, Sangmi Lee, Matthias Nuss, Kyu-Tek Park, Carla Penz, Jadranka Rota, Alexander Schintlmeister, B. Christian Schmidt, Jae-Cheon Sohn, M. Alma Solis, Gerhard M. Tarmann, Andrew D. Warren, Susan Weller, Roman V. Yakovlev, Vadim V. Zolotuhin, Andreas Zwick: Order Lepidoptera Linnaeus, 1758. In: Z.-Q. Zhang: (Ed.): Animal biodiversity: An outline of higher-level classification and survey of taxonomic richness. (= Zootaxa, 3148). 2011, pp. 212-221.
  2. ^ MJ Scoble: The Lepidoptera: Form, Function, and Diversity. 2005, p. 63. Accessed through Google books on Aug 21, 2009 [1]
  3. Heiko Bellmann : The new Kosmos butterfly guide, butterflies, caterpillars and forage plants . Franckh-Kosmos, Stuttgart 2003, ISBN 3-440-09330-1 , p. 150 .
  4. ^ Saving South Florida's Butterflies: Miami Blue Fund. North American Butterfly Association, accessed February 28, 2011 .
  5. ^ John Nevill Eliot (1973): The higher classification of the Lycaenidae (Lepidoptera): a tentative arrangement. Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) (Entomological series) 28 (6)
  6. Andrew VZ Brower: Lycaenidae. Tree of Life Web Project, 2007
  7. Niels P. Kristensen, Malcolm J Scroble, Ole Karsholt (2007): Lepidoptera phylogeny and systematics: the state of inventorying moth and butterfly diversity. Zootaxa 1668: 699-747.
  8. Boyle JH, Kaliszewska ZA, Espeland M, Suderman TR, Fleming JE, Heath A, Pierce NA. (2015): Phylogeny of the Aphnaeinae, myrmecophilous African butterflies with carnivorous and herbivorous life histories. Systematic Entomology 40: 169-182. doi : 10.1111 / syen.12098