Brephidium exilis, near La Joya, Soccoro County, New Mexico, 1 October 1998
Brephidium exilis, Boisduval, 1852
The family Lycaenidae is a large and varied worldwide group that has 4,000 to 6,000
species depending on the ever-changing taxonomic flux. They are collectively called
Gossamer Butterflies or Gossamer Wings. The family is further divided into eight
subfamilies. The first is the Theclinae which includes the Hairstreaks, Sunstreaks,
Elfins and others. The second is the Polyommatinae which includes the Blues, Azures,
Arguses, Caeruleans and others. The third subfamily is the Lycaeninae which includes
the Coppers, Sapphires, Silverlines and others. The forth is the Poritiinae which
includes the gems. The fifth is the Miletinae which includes the Brownies, Harvesters,
Darkies, Apeflies and others. The sixth is the Curetinae which includes the Sunbeams.
The seventh family is the Lipteninae which includes about 500 tropical rainforest
gossamer wings. The eighth and final subfamily is the Liphyrinae and includes the
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Brephidium exilis belongs to the subfamily Polyommatinae. This butterfly is found,
sometimes in huge numbers, in alkaline areas such as deserts, salt marshes and wasteland.
In some literature, it is recognized as the world’s smallest butterfly.
The larval food sources include pigweed (Chenopodium album), saltbush (Atriplex sp.)
and others in the goosefoot family (Chenopodiaceae). Males patrol over the host
plants all day to find receptive females. Females lay eggs all over the host but
particularly on the uppersides of leaves. Caterpillars eat all parts of the plant.