Marine Blue (Leptotes marina) life history
Marine Blue (Leptotes marina) Life History

Presumed egg of Marine Blue, 11-30-10

Marine Blue caterpillar on day one (probably), 12-1-10





Colorful caterpillar is well-camouflaged, 12-15-10

Resting in leaf shelter, 12-16-10

Mature caterpillar, 12-22-10

Prepupal larva has lost green color, 12-23-10

Fresh chrysalis, formed 5-6 days later (no feeding meanwhile), 12-29-10

Normal color of chrysalis, 1-6-11

Fresh adult female Marine Blue, ventral, 1-8-11

Fresh adult female Marine Blue, dorsal, 1-8-11

I noticed a female Marine Blue spending a lot of time around my Powderpuff bush, Calliandra emarginata, in late November (11-27-2010). I began to search, and I soon found a large number of lycaenid eggs (meaning those of Blues or Hairstreaks) on flowers and flower buds. Many were eclosed; some appeared fresh. There were so many that I was sure some belonged to a more common Blue or Hairstreak, but I gathered several good eggs in hopes of raising a Marine Blue, and hope was not disappointed!

The 2-3 eggs I particularly watched never visibly eclosed. One, examined later, had a hole on the bottom side of the egg, so it may have been the one from which the caterpillar emerged. All I know is that, after a few days, I discovered an extremely tiny caterpillar feeding on flower buds - and it was the only one I did find. I inspected flowers daily, and it was so small that I believe it was found on the first day after emerging, but I cannot be certain.

The caterpillar grew very slowly - by now it was December and cool. Powderpuff is a small tropical shrub that has red flowers similar to those of Mimosa trees. After 4-5 days, the once-pale caterpillar began to reflect the red shades of the flower buds it was eating. The final result was a red-and-green-striped caterpillar that blended in very well with the flowers it fed upon.

On December 16, the caterpillar moved off of flowers and made a shelter by sewing two leaves together. I thought it would pupate, but after a couple of days it began feeding again. It did not enter the prepupal stage for another week. When it did, it crawled to the bottom of its container and did nothing for 5-6 days before finally forming the chrysalis.

The caterpillar had taken a full 4 weeks to pupate, and I anticipated baby-sitting the pupa for several months. However, the adult emerged in early January, only nine days after the chrysalis formed. We were enjoying mild weather, and I released the fresh butterfly in hopes that she would either move south or find warmer climes before the next cold front arrived.

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