|Imperial Blue Butterfly (Jalmenus evagoras)
Watercolor and colored pencil
The imperial blue butterfly is a medium-sized species endemic to south eastern Australia. It is a member of the Lycaenidae family which includes Blues, Coppers and Hairstreaks. Like many butterflies, this species has an interconnected relationship between its food source and “attendant” ants, or other small insects like aphids. In this case, the Imperial Blue feeds on local Acacia plants, the processing of which causes their offspring, or larvae, to produce a sweet secretion that attracts swarms of small black Iridomyrmex ants. The ants in turn protect the larvae from a host of predators and parasites until the end of their fragile larval stage, when they will at last emerge as butterflies. The insect order Lepidoptera, which contains butterflies, moths and skippers, is one of the largest and most diverse groups of insects, with over 180,000 described species.
This illustration was produced for the exemplar pages of the Encyclopedia of Life (www.eol.org)
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