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THE HEAVENS RESIDE on the wings butterflies, and you can reach for the gods among “the blues.”

Blues are a group of tiny butterflies in the family Lycaenidae, which we call the gossamer-wings. Most of the time they appear to be frauds: no blue. That’s because these butterflies prefer to perch with their blue upper wings hidden, folded closed over the body. It’s how they roll (er, land).

Cupid and Psyche Source: Wikimedia Commons

Here in North America, we’ve got about 34 species of blues (subfamily Polyommatinae), many of which we have named for mythological figures: Philotes was a goddess of affection and sex. Cupido brought love to the world. His wife Psyche was a goddess of the soul. And Icarus taught us the lesson of hubris. Each is represented among the scientific names of the blues.

So maybe it’s fitting that the blues can carry Heaven to Earth (like Icarus in reverse). Although they certainly flash blue in flight, when perched the blues show us heavenly bodies and celestial events. On their underwings I see lightning and comets and solar systems — and even the sun and the moon in perfect alignment.

Cupid and Psyche seem to reflect the best total solar eclipse — tiny black spots with glowing halos on the wings of Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas) and Silvery Blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus). (By the way, Cupid and Psyche’s relationship was, uh, well, complicated.)

So here below is your total solar eclipse — a series of them, actually. Hardly some distant celestial events, each eclipse performs atop a flower or otherwise within our grasp — including on the tip of my finger. In my hand I can hold the sun and the moon — and in these gossamer wings I can even hear the music of the spheres.

Silvery Blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus) / Maine / 22 Jun 2016

Eastern Tailed Blue (Cupido comyntas) / Vermont / 1 Sep 2005

Arrowhead Blue (Glaucopsyche piasa) / Colorado / 1 Jul 2011

Crowberry Blue (Plebejus idas empetri) / Maine / 28 Jun 2017

Boisduval’s Blue (Glaucopsyche icarioides) / Colorado / 4 Jul 2011

Crowberry Blue (Plebejus idas empetri) – from below and above / Maine / 28 Jun 2017

Arctic Blue (Agriades glandon) / Colorado / 8 Jul 2011

Greenish Blue (Plebejus saepiolus) / Colorado / 2 Jul 2011

  1. Marie says:

    I was intrigued to look up this species after a friend commented that butterfly visits indicate a visit from heaven by a loved one. I remembered that a little blueish butterfly hung with me for quite a while during the eclipse on 8/21/17. My photos indicate the little eastern tailed blue was with me for a full 25 minutes leading up to totality. I had the distinct impression that my mother who had passed 3 years earlier was enjoying the beauty with me. The veil is so thin.

  2. Veronica says:

    Travelled all the way to the USA from the UK to see the eclipse but also spied the Eastern Tailed Blue in Tullulah Gorge – a brilliant day all round!

  3. Judy Brook says:

    I love these guys… Little chips of sky set free above grasses and meadow flowers. Thanks for sharing these blues that make me happy.

  4. Dudley Carlson says:

    What a great observation! These are indeed multiple eclipses – little moons blotting out little suns all over so many species. Thanks for your sharp eyes and thoughtful observations, and for the great photos – especially the last, reminding us just how tiny these little blues are. Enjoy tomorrow’s eclipse, whatever fraction of it you catch in Vermont!

  5. Meredith Truesdale says:

    How wonderful to see your splendid post about blues. I will put it on twitter where you will get more of an audience for your helpful, poetic knowledge about this magnificent creature so often overlooked in our frenetic world.

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