Aberrant female, with much reduced markings on the underside, Málaga,
is a butterfly of damp coastal gullies in southern Europe, North Africa
and the Canaries. In many areas, especially in popular tourist
destinations like the Costa del Sol, its natural habitat has been
mercilessly destroyed by human development, but fortunately this is a
species that thrives in the more artificial environment of towns. In
fact, I have only once found it in anything approaching a wild
environment - on the coast of La Palma. All my other localities are
within the confines of cities and towns. In Córdoba, for example, far
from the coast, it is to be found on irrigated and sprinkled grass near
the river. It is sad that so many wild colonies have been eradicated
but overall the species does not seem threatened at the moment.
There is no real possibility of confusing this species with any other
except its close relative, the dark grass blue, Zizeeria
To the best of my knowledge there is no overlap in distribution between
the two butterflies, though the situation in Malta is unclear. A local
lepidopterist assures me only knysna
flies there, while some other sources say it is karsandra.
Both sexes are tiny - far smaller than any other blue you might expect
to see in the same habitat. The male is a deep violet blue colour on
the upperside, with broad dark borders, while the female is all brown,
sometimes with blue basal suffusion. The sexes are similar beneath,
showing no submarginal orange and having a forewing cell spot. They are
inconspicuous butterflies, often staying low among grasses and
I have seen African grass blues as early as February in Spain and
they are said to fly into October. In the Canaries they are on the wing
all year round. They take a variety of foodplants, including but not
restricted to medicks and other members of the pea family.
As a point of trivia, there are three tropical and subtropical genera
of grass blue all beginning with Ziz...,
and Zizina. I
imagine this is not a
coincidence but I do not know what the significance is.