San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature ConnectionSDNHM Field Guide

Lycaeides melissa
Melissa Blue

Family: LYCAENIDAE (Coppers, Hairstreaks and Blues)


A relatively small butterfly, the Melissa Blue is about an inch in wingspan. The sexes are dimorphic, meaning each sex has its own color. Males are a beautiful blue while females are brown. A distinguishing characteristic is the red-orange submarginal row of scales in both sexes.

Range and Habitat

The Melissa Blue is one of the most widespread blues of the western states, occurring throughout the west to northern Baja California, northern Mexico and west Texas. It has been extirpated south of the San Francisco Bay area. There are also remnant populations in the Great Lakes area. In our region it occurs from the coast to the desert, preferring open spaces such as meadows, agricultural fields, and grasslands.

Natural History

Caterpillars are green, and tended by ants. This species overwinters as an egg and has three flights of adults. Host plants include legumes such as alfalfa, clovers, locoweed, and lupines.

Related or Similar Species

Other blues

Melissa Blue male, photo by Bob Parks Melissa Blue female, photo by Bob Parks

Text by Margi Dykens and Christian Manion.
Photo by Bob Parks.

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