This species is found in patches of the western U.S., from Washington east to Montana, and south to California and northern Arizona and New Mexico. In Idaho, it occurs primarily along the eastern and southern borders.
It tends to occur in drier areas, often in sagebrush steppe, chaparral, open woodlands, and desert.
Caterpillars feed on the flowers and fruits of various species of wild buckwheat
Adult: Butterflies drink flower nectar, often from host plants.
The caterpillar is equipped with a honey gland, also known as a dorsal nectary organ, which emits a sugary solution agreeable to ants. The ants feed on the solution and in turn protect the caterpillar from predators. Also for protection, the caterpillar bears a pair of everscible tubercles or tentacles on the eighth segment. These tubercles are usually housed within the body, but when the caterpillar feels threatened by the approach of a potential predator, they can be pushed out to release a chemical which mimics an ant alarm pheromone. This scent causes the ants to become frenzied and aggressive, and the potential predator takes leave or is eaten by the ants. There is one generation of caterpillars each summer. Each caterpillar undergoes four stages of growth, called instars. Pupae overwinter in a physiological state called diapause. Adults generally fly from mid-May to October. Butterflies do not fly far from where they emerge during their lifespan and the entire lifecycle of this species is spent in close proximity to wild buckwheat. The subspecies E. enoptes smithi, Smiths Blue, was one of the first insects to be listed as Endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A resident of the coastal dunes of California, it has been severely impacted by loss of habitat.
Males actively patrol near host plants in search of receptive females. Females lay eggs singly on the flowers or flower buds of host plants.
|Idaho Status:||Unprotected nongame species.|
|Global Rank:||Varies with subspecies. Subspecies smithi of California is ranked as T2, imperiled and endangered because of rarity and/or because of other factors making it very vulnerable to extinction.|
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