Website of Tobias Westmeier

Samphire Blue (Theclinesthes sulpitius)

Samphire Blue

Appearance: Very small. Upperside grey-brown with faint, blue basal suffusion. Underside brown with a characteristic, but highly variable, pattern of white markings. Scale-fringe chequered brown and white. Short tail on the hind wing. Very similar to the Saltbush Blue (Theclinesthes serpentata).
Wingspan: 1.8 cm
Season: Several generations all around the year in northern areas; from spring until autumn in NSW and VIC.
Range: Along the east coast of QLD, NSW, and VIC. A few isolated populations exist along the north coast of WA, NT, and QLD.
Habitat: Coastal mudflats and saltmarshes in the intertidal zone of rivers and creeks.
Photo: Homebush, NSW, 05 / 04 / 2010.

Description

This small and inconspicuous species can be found along the east coast of Australia, where it inhabits mudflats and saltmarshes in the intertidal zone of rivers. The caterpillars feed on Beaded Samphire (Sarcocornia quinqueflora) and a few other species of Samphire that grow just below the high-tide mark and regularly get inundated with water. Samphire usually forms dense colonies on the ground or in shallow water, and the butterflies are normally found in large numbers in the vicinity of these colonies. They often settle on the Samphire plants with their head pointing downwards.

The Samphire Blue is very similar to the Saltbush Blue (Theclinesthes serpentata). Compared to the Saltbush Blue, the Samphire Blue has the blue suffusion on the upperside restricted to the basal area, the black subtornal spot on the hind wing underside more pronounced, and usually lacks the patches of white suffusion on the underside. However, both the Saltbush Blue and the Samphire Blue are highly variable, and identification of individual specimens can be difficult in some cases.

Additional Photos

Samphire Blue
The upperside is grey-brown with faint, blue basal suffusion. (Homebush, NSW, 05 / 04 / 2010)
Samphire Blue
The underside is brown with a characteristic pattern of white markings. (Homebush Bay, NSW, 05 / 04 / 2010)
Samphire Blue
Another view of the characteristic underside pattern. (Homebush Bay, NSW, 05 / 04 / 2010)
Samphire Blue
The underside pattern is highly variable and often similar to the Saltbush Blue. (Homebush Bay, NSW, 05 / 04 / 2010)
Samphire Blue
The butterflies often rest on the Samphire plants with their head pointing downwards. (Homebush, NSW, 05 / 04 / 2010)
Samphire Blue
A very acrobatic mating pair with the female on the left-hand side. (Homebush, NSW, 05 / 04 / 2010)