Lampides boeticus (Linnaeus, 1767)
Long-tailed Pea Blue
(previously known as Papilio boeticus)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Lampides boeticus
(Photo: Don Herbison-Evans, Manly, New South Wales)

The Caterpillars of this species are slug-like, with no apparent legs. The caterpillars are off-white with a black head.

The caterpillars have been fouund feeding on many members of the plant family FABACEAE, e.g:

  • Tree Lucerne ( Chamaecytisus prolifer ),
  • Sturt's Desert Pea ( Clianthus formosus ),
  • Rattle-Box ( Crotalaria species ),
  • English Broom ( Cytisus scoparius ).
  • Hyacinth Bean ( Dolichos lablab ),
  • Running Postman ( Kennedia prostrata ),
  • Sweet Pea ( Lathyrus odoratus ),
  • Austral Trefoil ( Lotus australis ),
  • Lupins ( Lupinus nanus ),
  • Siratro ( Macroptilium atropurpureum ),
  • Garden Peas ( Pisum sativum ), and
  • Broad Beans ( Vicia faba ).

    The caterpillars feed on the the flowers of their foodplant, and grow to a length of 1 cm.

    Lampides boeticus
    (Photo: Don Herbison-Evans, Manly, New South Wales)

    The caterpillars pupate in a flower, so that when the flower dies, and shrivels, and falls to the ground, the pupa falls with it. The pupation period varies from about a fortnight to a year, even for caterpillars that pupated at the same time!

    Lampides boeticus
    male, possibly bitten by a bird on the fake head
    (Photo: courtesy of CSIRO/BIO Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, University of Guelph)

    The adults are dimorphic: the males and females being different. The upper surfaces of the wings of the males are blue, whereas those of the females are blue with wide dark brown edges.

    Lampides boeticus
    female, possibly also bitten by a bird on the fake head
    (Photo: courtesy of Jenni Horsnell, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales)

    Underneath, both sexes have a brown and white pattern. They both have a little tail on each hindwing, with a pair of small black eye-spots beside each tail. Presumably, the pair of eye-spots and tails (fake antennae) are useful for confusing predators about which end of the animal is which. The butterflies have a wingspan of about 3 cms.

    Lampides boeticus
    (Photo: courtesy of Todd Burrows, South Stradbroke Island, Queensland)

    Males set up small territories which they patrol, fighting off rival males who trespass. If the resident male is removed, another one soon appears take his place. The same territory is used by different males year after year.

    Lampides boeticus
    egg, magnified
    (Photo: courtesy of Ken Walker, Yanac, Victoria)

    The caterpillars begin life as yellow toroidal eggs, each covered in a microscopic open white mesh. The eggs are about 0.4 mm. across, often laid singly on the flower buds of a foodplant.

    The species is found all over the world, including :

  • Canaries,
  • Hawaii,
  • India,
  • Italy,
  • Philippines,
  • Singapore,
  • Zambia,

    and of course in Australia, including

  • Northern Territory,
  • Queensland,
  • Norfolk Island,
  • New South Wales,
  • Victoria,
  • Tasmania,
  • South Australia, and
  • Western Australia.

    Lampides boeticus
    Ascension Island, 1989
    Lampides boeticus
    Fiji, 1985

    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia,
    CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 2, pp. 831, 861, 864, 865.

    Kelvyn L. Dunn,
    Field Notes: Gulf Country exensions to the known distribution of the Long-tailed Pea-blue, Lampides boeticus (Linneaeus 1767) in Queensland (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae),
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 69 (June 2013), pp. 17-23.

    Carl Linnaeus,
    Insecta Lepidoptera,
    Systema Naturae,
    Edition 12, Class 5, Tome 1, Part 2 (1767), p. 789, No. 226.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 31 May 2013, 26 December 2023)