Santa Clarita and Northern Los Angeles County Area
Butterfly and Moth Site

Sonoran Blue [Philotes sonorensis] Rearing Images

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On 5-1-2006, I caught a somewhat worn female near Bear Divide. I brought her home and placed her into a small enclosure with host plant and some honey-water for food, hopes that she had a few ova left. She wasn't too interested in feeding (which is unusual) and concentrated on ovipositing on the Dudleya lanceolata host. She managed 9 ova before finally expiring the following day.

These eggs were collected on 3-25-2005 in Placerita Canyon. They appear as small, white-ish, pebble-shaped dots which could easily be mistaken for grains of sand splashed onto the plant by raindrops. The Dudleya host plant grows on wet, exposed rock cliffs which can be found sparingly at the bottom of the deeper canyons in the Santa Clarita area.

I noticed that the adults prefer to oviposit on plants growing on East-facing slopes. Apparently, East-facing slopes get sun exposure from morning through noon when the females are most likely to be ovipositing. North-facing slopes are usually too shady; South and West and facing slopes are too hot and dry or receive sun too late in the day.

On 5-2-2006, I collected a number of ova near Bear Divide Ranger Station. I removed the leaves which contained ova from the hosts using a pocket knife in the field . Later in the lab, I carefully removed a 1/8" square portion of plant skin with the egg attached, and placed it on the surface of a potted plant leaf. The undersurface of the skin was wet and acted like glue to hold it in place.

The ova were of various ages and I was fortunate to spot of the larvae eating its way out the next day! It was surprisingly visible for such a small larva of 1/16". It crawled around for about 5 minutes before stopping only 1/8" from the egg shell, and began to drill into the leaf.

It tunneled into the leaf, staying just below the plant's skin. In 15 minutes the rear half of the larva can be seen, still protruding. 15 minutes later, it was completely submerged into the juicy inner leaf contents. A small amount of frass can be seen just behind the entry point. Total time from hatch to disappearing into the leaf: about 35 minutes. While it is still surrounded by the leaf's liquid, the larva's outline can be seen as if underwater. As the liquid in the tunnel dries up, the larva within it becomes less visible. Within 3 hours, only a small hole in the leaf remains as evidence of the larva's presence. 5-3-2006

This larva appeared on the cut leaves collected along with the ova on 5-2-2006, and was already at least a few days old. As the cut leaves dried out, it went in search of fresh food. I placed it on the potted plant and after wandering a surprising distance it finally found a suitable spot and drilled-in. Note the larger hole and amount of frass at the entry point. Pics taken 5-3-2006.

By 5-12-2006, (left photo) these tiny little worms were having a serious effect on this potted plant. The larvae were hardly detectable, but the presence was very noticeable!

On 5-24-2006, one of the older larvae appeared dry and ragged, looking like it might be preparing to pupate. (2nd photo) It wandered around quite a bit, then returned to the group only to blend back in for some time. It may have resumed eating but probably just found a secluded place in the container to rest. The next day, I found it under the tissue at the bottom of the container, hiding out.(3rd photo), It didn't stay there, however, and continued wandering some more. The folded paper napkin at the bottom of the container really helped to absorb all the juice from the plant as the larvae devoured it. (Photos 4 and 5)

Here are a few more shots of the mature 2006 brood... (5-26-2006)

As the larvae feed on the fleshy interior of the leaves, large blisters begin to appear on the plant. In about 3 weeks, the larvae are much larger and ocassionally emerge from the partially-eaten leaves in search of fresh. These images of 3-week-old larvae were taken 4-14-2005.

After nearly 4 weeks, these larvae have made quite a mess of the potted host plant. There are 5 larvae of various sizes on this plant. They eat a surprisingly large amount of host for such small larvae. 4-17-2005

On 4-19-2005, I found 4 additional larvae in Placerita Canyon, making 9 total for for the 2005 season. I had to transfer the whole lot of them to a new host plant because the original host was completely eaten. I chose to sleeve them on the new plant so that they would be easier to find when they finally pupated. These pictures were taken on 4-24-2005.

They ate a surprising amount of host. Actually, they probably ruined more than they ate! I found it easier to toss cuttings into the sleeve for the last 2 weeks instead of trying to transfer them to yet another host. Fortunately, the Dudleya host plants grow abundantly in my back yard so plant material is readily available and does not deplete plants in wild areas where sonorensis normally breeds.

After 6 weeks, most of the remaining 5 (2005 season) larvae were near fully-grown. These shots show various larvae with a small ruler for scale. They got larger than I expected considering the size of most field-caught adults. 5-3-2005

Finally, all the 2005 season larvae had pupated by May 20, 2005. All of them pupated on the sleeve material rather than on the base of the plant. Two of them even climbed up to the highest possible point in the sleeve to pupate. In any case, confining them to the sleeve worked out well.

1st photo (3-15-2006): The first signs of development are the yellowing of the entire pupa and the darkening of the eyes (2nd and 3rd pupae from the left). Then, a wing pattern begins to show (left pupa).

2nd photo (3-17-2006): 2 days later, the wing pattern of the furthest-along pupa has progressed dramatically. A slight hint of wing pattern is visible in the center pupa.

3rd photo (3-19-2006): 2 days later still, wing patterns are developing rapidly in two pupae, and a third is on the way. The remaining two transparent pupae show no development yet.

4th - 6th photos (3-21-2006): The lower 3 pupae show various degrees of progress, the center one being ready to eclose this day. Note the "lump" near the antennae and forewing. A short while later, a small female with a slightly deformed forewing, probably a result of the lump, eclosed from the first pupa.

1st photo (3-28-2006): All of the pupae are now showing development. Note the interesting wing pattern showing in one of the bottom pupae. I hopd for an aberrant specimen from this pupa, but it did not survive.

2nd photo (4-02-2006): Strong wing pattern now visible in all but one pupa. The left pupa eclosed on 4-3-2006 (a male), leaving 3.

3nd and 4th photos (4-08-2006): The pupa showing the blue wing pattern eclosed 4-9-2006 (another male) while the remaining two slowly dried-out and died. The reason was not apparent.

This completes the Sonoran Blue rearing project. However, I've added some additional images from later broods below...

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