E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia

Plebejus melissa Hübner, [1819]
Melissa's Blue
Family: Lycaenidae (Gossamer Wings)
Species account authors: Crispin Guppy and Jon Shepard.
Extracted from Butterflies of British Columbia
The Families of Lepidoptera of BC
Introduction to the Butterflies of BC

© Norbert Kondla  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #74049)

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Distribution of Plebejus melissa in British Columbia.
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Species Information

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Illustration Source: Butterflies of British Columbia by Crispin Guppy and Jon Shepard © Royal BC Museum


See the discussion of the Northern Blue to distinguish Melissa's Blue. The male genitalia are illustrated. The underside wing ground pattern is always contrasting in Melissa's Blue. If one looks at large numbers of individuals of an adjacent Northern Blue population, there are always some individuals with a washed out wing pattern among the Northern Blues.

Immature Stages

Scudder (1889b) described the immatures as a subspecies of the Northern Blue. Comstock (1928) illustrated the egg of California populations. It is very flat and light green. Comstock (1929) illustrated the larva and pupa.


BC populations are the nominate subspecies, L.m. melissa (TL: La Plata Peak, Lake Co., CO).

Genus Description

The name Lycaeides comes from Lycaena, the older generic name for blues, and ides (like), thus "like other blues."

This is the only genus of blues in BC with a strong row of submarginal reddish spots on the undersides of both wings. The falces is elongate and equal in length to the labides. The dorsaI tip of the valve is serrate and the ventral tip is strongly hooked back to project dorsally.

There are six species in the genus Lycaeides, three Palearctic, two Nearctic, and one Holarctic. All North American species occur in BC.

The BC species of Lycaeides are very difficult to tell apart by wing characters where the species occur together. The pertinent part of the male genitalia is illustrated in the figure.


Melissa's Blue flies in two generations each summer. The first generation is present from mid-May to early July, and the second generation from late July to early September. Comstock (1928) observed southern California females ovipositing on the base of, or on small pebbles next to the base of, Lupinus sp. Comstock (1929) recorded wild licorice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota) as a larval foodplant. Eggs laid by the first-generation adults hatch within one week and become second-generation adults by six weeks. The overwintering stage of immatures from the second generation is not known.


Melissa's Blue is found in the Southern Interior below 1,000 m in ponderosa pine and sagebrush habitat.



Melissa's Blue is found from the Southern Interior of BC south to Baja California and northern MEX, and east of the Rockies from central AB east to MB. In the east, it is found south of the Great Lakes and in southern ON and NY, where an endangered subspecies, the Karner Blue, occurs (L.m. samuelis Nabokov, 1944) (TL: Karner, NY).

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
NativeS5YellowNot Listed
BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Additional Photo Sources

General References

Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2019. E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia [efauna.bc.ca]. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed: 2020-07-13 9:54:06 PM]
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