Euphilotes ancilla

Photo Life History: Euphilotes ancilla

Habitat:  Mountain Hilltops; Mountain Hillsides

Host Plants:  Eriogonum heracleoides; Eriogonum umbellatum

Suitable Lab Host Plants:

How to Find Female Butterflies:  Females can be found nectaring on larval host plant towards the middle of their flight.

How to Care for Live Female Butterflies:  Click here. Again, females will nectar on cuttings of the same Eriogonum that they lay eggs on.   

Methods of Female Oviposition:  Twin Cup Method.   See this video for instructions on both how to care for live females as well as how to get them to oviposit in the lab.  John Emmel notes that it is critical that you provide females with Eriogonum inflorescens with open petals. 

How to Find Eggs: Look on open flower petals.  This can be very difficult when the host plant is abundant.

How to Hatch Eggs:  Separate eggs individually; Keep egg on original flower petal.  If you remove attached eggs from flower petals, or detach the egg/petals from flower itself, you reduce the odds that the egg will hatch in the lab. 

How to Find Caterpillars in the Field: Look for Ants Tending Caterpillars.  (However, this is not always productive for E. ancilla.)  Because of the orientation of the flower petals of Eriogonum heracleoides and Eriogonum umbellatum, it is easy for larvae to hide at the base of or within the flower head itself.   Instead of looking for larvae in the field, an alternative is to cut stems containing flower heads (without damaging the basal leaves or roots of these perennial buckwheats), and place in water and observe in the lab in an open terrarium type setup.  Watch for frass and then locate the larva within or just below the flower head.  Another method is to place flower cuttings in a sack and allow cuttings to dry.  When they do, larvae will crawl off to look for fresh host.

Caterpillar setups:  Open terrariums; Twin Cup Method.--Because cannibalism is a concern with this and other lycaenid larvae, it is best to separate them out either in a open terrarium setup, or using the twin cup method.  It is more work; but, you gain more control by separating out larvae into small twin cups similar to this photo.

Larva to Pupa:  Larva Changes Color.

How to Find Pupae in the Field:

Number of Broods per Year:  1

Overwintering Stage:  Pupa. 

Overwintering Strategies:  Your Own Backyard;

Post-Hibernation Strategies: This is critical!!!!   Pupae should remain in their outdoor overwintering setup through the spring (and even into summer, when applicable) because of the unique relationship between buckwheat blues and buckwheat plants themselves.  Because Euphilotes blues feed on the flowers of differing species of buckwheats, in nature they do NOT emerge in the spring or summer until their specific Eriogonum is in bud or flower.  Therefore, in order to get post-diapause pupae of buckwheat blues to emerge in the lab, they need to be exposed to natural daylength (outside) until you notice them darkening up; which is usually a few weeks before they bud or flower in nature.  Only at that time, should you bring them indoors for emergence.  Because insect and other pests are alive and active in the outdoors in the spring and summer, it becomes increasingly important to protect pupae with multiple layers of containers.  Nevertheless, make sure that pupae are still exposed to some degree of indirect sunlight so that they can measure natural daylength and time their emergence correctly.  I will update the site to show photos of how this is done.  Rearing buckwheat blues definitely adds another dimension of effective butterfly rearing.

Avoiding Diapause Techniques:  Healthy Host Plant; High Humidity. (Exposing pupae to constant mist-spraying can be very productive in getting a certain percentage of your buckwheat blue pupae to emerge immediately and avoid the post hibernation strategies outlined above.)  See notes below.

Disease Prevention:  Change out host plant and remove frass every two to three days in a twin cup setup.  Buckwheat blues are quite sensitive to disease even in open containers if host and frass is not removed regularly.

Emergence:  Emergence Container

Field Notes:  In 2010, I created this video for obtaining eggs out of several Euphilotes ancilla females.  After a week or so, these females laid roughly 150 eggs.  Only about 50 percent of those eggs hatched because the petal with the eggs were separated from the live stalk; which is why I say that it is important to keep the eggs attached to the petal and the petal to the host cutting.  Eggs were split amongst myself, Nicky Davis and other Utah collectors.  Nicky and I reared the larvae through to pupae under very similar setups.  However, Nicky aggressively mist-sprayed her pupae where I did not.  As a result, roughly 30-40 percent of Nicky's pupae emerged immediately whereas ALL of mine went into diapause.  One can definitely get buckwheat blue adults sooner rather than later by regularly mist spraying their pupae right after pupation.