The pigeon family is very extensive, it includes more than 5,000 species of butterflies, sometimes very different from each other and living in various climatic conditions – from the equator to the Arctic Circle. The blue butterfly has very beautiful wings, and their relationship with ants is also of interest.
Origin of the species and description
The evolution of Lepidoptera is closely related to the evolution and spread of flowering plants around the planet: as the latter became more and more, and they became more and more developed, the species diversity of butterflies grew, they acquired mouthparts adapted for extracting nectar and beautiful wings.
The modern pigeon in all its variety of species appeared in the Neogene. The scientific description of the pigeon family was made in 1815 by W. Leach, the original name in Latin was Cupidinidae, then it was changed to Lycaenidae.
The family is very large, so only a few species can be briefly described:
- Icarus pigeon (Polyommatus icarus, described by S. Rottemburg in 1775) is the most typical species for Russia. It has a wingspan of only about 15 mm. In males, they have a pale blue tint, in females – brown-blue;
- long-tailed pigeon – Lampides boeticus (Linnaeus, 1767), is remarkable as the only representative of the genus. It also has a small wingspan, it is interesting for its tendency to migrate over long distances – it does not form permanent populations;
- evenus coronata, the species was described by Hewitson in 1865 – a tropical butterfly native to Central America. Notable for the largest wingspan in the entire family at 60 mm, as well as their beauty: they are very rich, like a glowing azure color with a black border.
Interesting fact: The writer Vladimir Nabokov was also an entomologist and in his travels across America he discovered a large number of insect species, including the scientific descriptions of several species of pigeons.
Appearance and features
The dimensions are small: the wingspan usually ranges from 20 to 40 mm. In rare cases, it can reach 60, this is typical for tropical butterflies, smaller species live in the temperate zone. The wings are wide and allow for gliding. Some pigeons have “tails” at their ends, but in most of them they are rounded, and when folded they are close to a triangular shape, but smoothed. The color of the wings is blue, from pale to bright, heavenly. There are blotches of black and white, as well as yellow spots.
The wings can also be brown or fiery. Males have a much brighter color than females, since it falls to them to attract a partner, and the female only makes a choice in favor of one of the males. In addition, the spots on the wings of the female are usually less pronounced or completely absent.
Video: Butterfly pigeon
In addition to these colors, there are others, because there are a lot of pigeons, and they are all different: there are whitish-yellow, white with black specks, gray with blue, and so on. The name of this butterfly comes from the common pigeon Icarus in our country.
The lower part of the wings of the pigeons is painted in a protective color – usually gray or brown, it allows you to disguise yourself on tree trunks and in bushes. They have club-shaped antennae and short palps. Males are also distinguished by the fact that their front legs are poorly developed, they move on the middle and hind legs, but in females all three pairs are equally developed.
Now you know what a blueberry butterfly looks like. Let's now see where it lives.
Where does the blueberry butterfly live?
This butterfly is very loves warm, tropical weather – a significant part of its species is found only in the tropics, less – in the subtropics, and in the temperate zone, hardly one in ten. But these species, for example, the pigeon Icarus, are able to tolerate significant temperature fluctuations and live in fairly cold areas.
The range is very wide and includes all parts of the world. Do not meet pigeons except in the Arctic and Antarctic. Although relatively few species live in temperate regions, their population is quite large, especially in Central and Eastern Europe.
Prefer to live in open, sunny areas with a small number of trees or shrubs. These are meadows, gardens, glades, edges, banks of rivers and lakes. The Icarus dove is very fond of alfalfa fields, it is found in large numbers on them.
Rarely, but also dovetails are found right in settlements where they can live in parks or gardens. The largest number of these butterflies lives in flat areas, with an increase in altitude, the diversity of species and the frequency of butterflies decreases, but there are quite a lot of them up to 1,500 meters, some are found at an altitude of up to 3,300 meters.
Usually do not move long distances – they can fly to a more attractive site, but usually located within a few hundred meters. In the future, they spend their entire short life on it or nearby.
What does the blueberry butterfly eat?
Caterpillars can betray a variety of plants – depending on the species. So, the tail caterpillar prefers the leaves of trees and shrubs, and the many-eyed caterpillar prefers buckwheat and legumes. Some can harm garden trees or shrubs.
It is interesting that not all blueberry caterpillars eat only plants – some can diversify the menu with living creatures, or even eat only it.
Among their victims are:
- ant larvae;
- other small insects;
- other caterpillars, including those of the same species.
Yes, this is a rare example of predatory caterpillars, moreover, sometimes engaged in cannibalism – they are very different from the larvae of many other butterflies, harmless and eating only leaves!
Many of them make themselves comfortable in anthills, forcing the ants to feed themselves – they do this because of the fluid that their nectar gland produces. Some also have organs that make sounds that ants obey.
In the form of adults, pigeons feed primarily on nectar, and in this respect they are completely picky: they love clover most of all, but almost any flower suits them. Moreover, they are also able to feed on the sap of trees and rotting fruits, aphid secretions and even bird droppings.
There are many species of pigeon, and some of them can even eat products that are extremely remarkable for butterflies: for example, some are attracted to canned food and fat.
Character and Lifestyle Features
They love the sun and heat, and are active only during the day, and when it ends, they look for a secluded place to spend the night in it. In the form of adults, they do not live long, from 3-4 days to 3 weeks, depending on the species. That is why, although their population is quite large, they are much less common than urticaria.
Most often, development occurs in two or three generations, but in warm areas there may even be four. As a result, you can meet the blueberry not only throughout the summer, but also most of the spring and autumn. Caterpillars of pigeons hibernate, and sometimes pupae: they can do this not on the stem of a plant or in a warm bedding, or right on the ground, in a network of silk.
Some pigeons overwinter in anthills, or ants hide them in hiding places in the ground, for example, in cracks. Caterpillars are notable for being solitary and secretive, they are difficult to notice on plants due to the color that matches the leaves – they are not only the same shade of green, but even reproduce the veins.
Many pigeons are closely related to ants – they have a relationship with them from symbiotic to parasitic – depending on the type of butterfly. This is also remarkable, because in many other butterflies, for example, urticaria or lemongrass, caterpillars suffer from ants, while the pigeon is not in danger from their side – and on the contrary, it is dangerous for them.
Social structure and reproduction
protect it: they can attack other bluebirds or bees, and other insects, trying to drive them away. During the breeding season, males try to attract a female, but at other times they can even show aggression towards her.
As an insect of complete metamorphosis, the blueberry goes through four standard stages. Their duration and features can vary greatly from species to species, below it will be briefly considered how reproduction and development proceeds to adults in the spring blueberry.
The first generation butterflies lay their eggs in early summer, the second in mid-August. Eggs are usually 50-80, they are laid one by one on a leaf or fruit bud by females of the first generation, and on the ovary of fruits – by the second generation. The egg develops, depending on weather conditions, from 3 to 7 days – on cold days it takes more time.
Then comes the caterpillar, they can eat a lot of plants, and not only leaves, but also flowers, buds, fruits – they are even preferable, because they are more nutritious. So, caterpillars of this species can become a garden pest if they find themselves on currants, apple trees, pear trees.
They can come into contact with ants, but they do not always do this – the researchers suggest that the spring pigeon caterpillar does this only when there is a lack of nutrients or after an experienced threat from a predator. After two or three weeks of increased nutrition, the caterpillar pupates, and after another week the butterfly breaks through the cocoon.
Otherwise, the situation is with the second, or, in a warm area, the third generation in a year: by the time the caterpillar grows to sufficient size, it becomes colder, and therefore it falls into hibernation, choosing a warm place. Sometimes it pre-pupates, often hibernates in an anthill.
Caterpillars of pigeons associated with ants live near anthills, and pupae lie right in them. They can also be attached to branches or leaves of trees, or lie directly on the ground. After the appearance of caterpillars, their lifestyle depends on what species they belong to: some spend all the time until turning into a chrysalis on plants, feeding on foliage and being exposed to dangers.
Others have settled much better: for example, the Alcon blueberry lays its eggs in a gentian flower. The first time they spend inside the flower, feeding on its pulp, protected from predators, until they gnaw a hole in it and get out. This takes a couple of weeks. Then they descend and wait for the ants to find them.
Thanks to the substances they produce, they do not spend much time waiting: they quickly find them and take them to the anthill. There they continue to grow in complete safety, then they pupate there. Many pigeons have similarly defended themselves against the dangers of existence in the form of a caterpillar.
Butterflies natural enemies
There are many of them at all stages of development.
They are mainly:
Danger threatens bluebirds throughout their lives, starting from the egg stage – adult butterflies are least exposed to it, able to fly away from most predators. But not from everyone: their main enemy is birds, which are much faster, they are able to catch butterflies right on the fly, or lie in wait when they are resting.
Insects can also hunt butterflies: dragonflies do it right in flight, spiders put nets on them, praying mantises guard on flowers. But still, the threat for caterpillars is especially great: they are not able to escape from a predator, and the same birds are much more likely to attack them, because butterflies still need to be caught, and besides, one at a time. There are usually a lot of caterpillars not far from each other, and you can devour dozens at once. Caterpillars are especially often used as food for voracious chicks.
Therefore, many pigeon caterpillars have defense mechanisms due to which a relatively large number of them survive: for example, placing eggs on the ovary of a flower, so that the caterpillar is then safely hidden from predators most of the time. Or interaction with ants, which allows you to winter or develop in an anthill without danger.
People spoil the life of pigeons much more: due to environmental degradation and the disappearance of their habitats, the population of some species has greatly decreased, and they are in danger of extinction – predators could not bring it to this.
Population and species status
Thanks to all the features described earlier and the tricks of the pigeon population that have appeared in the course of evolution are incredibly tenacious: they multiply rapidly, because, compared to most other butterflies, a much larger percentage of larvae survive to the adult form.
It says a lot that out of the whole variety of pigeon species – and there are about 5,200 of them, only one completely extinct is known. That is, nothing threatens most of the pigeons even in modern conditions, when many previously widespread species of butterflies are becoming quite rare, or even on the verge of extinction.
But this does not apply to everyone, because there are a lot of different pigeons, not all species have a wide range and a large population, and therefore some of them may be endangered, others are already listed in the Red Book – most often only in certain countries.
Fun fact: The pupae of some blueberry species have a funny defense against predators – for example, the plum tail pupae look like bird droppings – few people want to dig into it! In the bluish chervonets, it disguises itself as a poisonous ladybug chrysalis, to which predators usually do not react. And if you touch the oak tail chrysalis, it will start to creak.
Pigeon Butterfly Conservation
Some species of pigeon are listed in the international Red Book, a larger number – in the Red Books of individual states. The most common reasons for the decline in the number of these butterflies are the disappearance of their habitats due to increasing urbanization, active grazing in areas where their number is increasing, grass burning and other human activities.
Accordingly, conservation measures are aimed at preserving intact at least some of the habitats of rare blueberry species. The activity of measures taken differs depending on the state, the highest is noted in European countries.
Several species of pigeon are protected in Russia, including arion, marshmallow and David's pigeon. Measures are being taken to prevent the disappearance of these rare species: a significant part of their populations live in nature reserves and other protected natural areas, which helps prevent a further decline in their numbers.
Especially for them, uncut grassy edges, curtains oregano near the anthills, the anthills themselves are also not destroyed. The amount of efforts made to conserve rare species depends primarily on the authorities of the regions in which the pigeons are protected.
The pigeons are very diverse, especially in the tropics, where these butterflies can be found with very different shapes and colors of wings. In temperate latitudes, they are much smaller, but also plentiful, and these very short-lived creatures adorn the warm season – although their caterpillars sometimes harm cultural plantings.