Cranberry Blue

Plebejus (Vacciniina) optilete


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Plebejus optilete

Male, Switzerland, July 2018

Plebejus optilete

Male, Switzerland, July 2016, in habitat with alpenrose and Vaccinum

Plebejus optilete

Male, Switzerland, July 2017

Plebejus optilete

Male, Switzerland, August 2014

Plebejus optilete

Male, Switzerland, August 2014

Plebejus optilete

Female, Switzerland, July 2018

Plebejus optilete

Male, Switzerland, July 2014

Plebejus optilete

Male, Switzerland, August 2014

Plebejus optilete

Female, Switzerland, June 2010

Plebejus optilete

Female, Switzerland, August 2013


Plebejus optilete

Switzerland, August 2014

Male, Switzerland, July 2009



Male, Switzerland, July 2009

Female, Switzerland, July 2006

Male, Switzerland, July 2006

Male, Switzerland, July 2008

Female, Switzerland, July 2007

Female, Switzerland, July 2007

Female, Switzerland, July 2006

Female, Switzerland, July 2006

Female Switzerland, July 2006

Plebejus optilete distribution

Distribution

This beautiful little blue is associated in my part of Switzerland with upland areas covered in Vaccinium (bilberries and related species), its foodplant, and spends most of its time in close proximity to these plants. Elsewhere, especially in the north, it can be found in bogs and moorland at lower altitude, though always in association with the foodplant. Its range extends through the boreal regions into Alaska and Canada. In Switzerland it commonly flies with moorland clouded yellows and cranberry fritillaries, though less frequently with the latter as this is a less common butterfly.

From the upperside the male is a deeper purple than many other blues - certainly, deeper than the related Plebejus species - and this is visible even in flight. The female is rather leaden in appearance, though she may have some blue on her. But it is the underside that really gives the game away with this butterfly. The orange lunule in space 3 of the hindwing is swollen and the black spot outside it contains a gleaming, gem-like, blue centre. The adjacent lunules may show some orange, and that in the anal angle some blue, but otherwise the submarginal region is black on grey. The whole appearance is quite unmistakable and like nothing else in Europe.

The butterfly flies from late June (more normally July in my part of Switzerland) through to August. Eggs are laid on leaves or stems of the foodplant and hatch the same year but the caterpillars hibernate while young, feeding up on the fresh leaves when they emerge from the snow the following spring.