Theclinesthes serpentata (Herrich-Schaffer, 1869)
Chequered or Saltbush Blue
(one synonym : Cupido fasciola Tepper, 1882)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Theclinesthes serpentata
(Photo: courtesy of Wes Jenkinson)

This Caterpillar is green with a dark dorsal stripe bordered by yellow. It is covered in small white warts. It feeds on various types of Saltbush (CHENOPODIACEAE), for example :

  • Berry Saltbush ( Einadia hastata ),
  • Fat Hen ( Chenopodium album ),
  • Fleshy Saltbush ( Rhagodia crassifolia ),
  • Spiny Saltbush ( Rhagodia spinescens ),
  • Old Man Saltbush ( Atriplex nummularia ),
  • Slender Fruited Saltbush ( Atriplex leptocarpa ),
  • Bladder Saltbush ( Atriplex vesicaria ), and
  • Berry Saltbush ( Atriplex semibaccata ),

    as well as

  • Whitewood ( Atalaya hemiglauca, SAPINDACEAE ).

    The caterpillar is inclined to leave the veins of the leaves uneaten, which is useful when hunting the beastie. It is usually attended by small black ants of various genera including :

  • Iridomyrmex species ( DOLICHODERINAE ),
  • Camponotus ceriseipes ( FORMICINAE ),
  • Monomorium rubriceps ( MYRMICINAE ), and
  • Myrmecia nigrocincta ( MYRMICINAE ).

    Theclinesthes serpentata
    (Photo: courtesy of Wes Jenkinson)

    The caterpillar grows to a length of about 1 cm. The pupa is green with brown markings and has a length of about 0.7 cm. It is usually attached to the foodplant.

    Theclinesthes serpentata
    (Photo: courtesy of Martin Purvis, Sydney, New South Wales)

    The adults are brown on top with blue central areas, and chequered margins.

    Theclinesthes serpentata
    (Photo: courtesy of Martin Purvis, Sydney, New South Wales)

    Underneath, they are pale brown, with white spots and dashes. The butterflies have a wing span of about 2 cms.

    Theclinesthes serpentata
    (Photo: courtesy of Wes Jenkinson)

    The eggs are pale green and flattened. They are laid singly on flower buds and leaves of a foodplant.

    The species may be found as several races, including :

  • lavara (Couchman, 1954) on Tasmania, and
  • serpentata on the mainland.
  • especially in the non-tropical parts of Australia, including
  • Northern Territory,
  • Queensland,
  • New South Wales,
  • Victoria,
  • Tasmania,
  • South Australia, and
  • Western Australia

    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 2, pp. 813-814.

    Russel Denton & John T. Moss,
    Saltbush Blue and Samphire Blue butterflies at Boondall Wetlands,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 52 (March 2009), pp. 8-9,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.

    Kelvyn L. Dunn,
    Winter butterfly observations near the Melbourne CBD,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 57 (June 2010), pp. 19-26,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.

    Gottlieb August Wilhelm Herrich-Schäffer,
    Neue Schmetterlinge aus dem "Museum Godeffroy" in Hamburg,
    Stettin Entomologische Zeitung,
    Volume 30 , Parts 1-3 (1869), p. 74, No. 32.

    Wealey Jenkinson,
    Life history notes on the Saltbush Blue, Theclinesthes serprntata serpentata (Herrich-Schaffer, 1869) Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae),
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 81 (June 2016), pp. 19-21,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 30 May 2008)