New Butterfly Species Discovered at Metolius Preserve

Jun 08, 2022
It’s not every day that you discover a new species at a Land Trust Preserve, but that was the case in May for stewardship director Amanda Egertson!


It’s not every day that you discover a new species at a Land Trust Preserve, but that was the case in May for stewardship director Amanda Egertson! Amanda was visiting the Metolius Preserve preparing for an upcoming butterfly walk when she found a small blue butterfly that looked like an Asher’s blue (Celastrina asheri). She quickly snapped a photo and headed back to the office to work on identification.

Asher's blue butterfly at the Metolius Preserve. Photo: Land Trust.
Asher's blue butterfly at the Metolius Preserve. Photo: Land Trust.
Amanda studied butterflies in graduate school and has shared her love of these fluttery creatures on countless Land Trust outings over the years and has created many of our Preserve butterfly lists. She stays up-to-date on the science of butterflies and had been following a discussion about a group of Celastrina or azure butterflies. Scientists had only classified two species in our region (Celastrina echo and Celastrina lucia), but some azure butterflies just weren’t fitting into these categories.

As a result of this uncertainty, Caitlin LaBar and some other Celastrina experts spent the past several years unraveling the mystery. The result is a newly described species they called Asher’s blue (Celastrina asheri), named for an eight year old boy with an incurable neurological disease. The boy’s inherent sunshine and love of the outdoors and the color blue inspired the lepidopterists to name the butterfly after him with the hope of raising awareness of the disease (4H Leukodystrophy) and bringing a little extra sunshine into his world.

Amanda confirmed her identification with butterfly expert Dr. David James, associate professor at Washington State University, and indeed she had spotted the new species! Newly described butterfly species aren’t a common occurrence in the United States, so it’s very exciting news—especially since we have them at the Metolius Preserve!! Amanda has since seen the Asher’s blue at the Metolius Preserve several times.

The distinctive markings on the hindwing of the Asher's blue butterfly. Photo: Tom Wainwright.
The distinctive markings on the hindwing of the Asher's blue butterfly. Photo: Tom Wainwright.
Azure butterflies are very common in the spring in Central Oregon. They’re especially plentiful along the Metolius River and at the Metolius Preserve. Asher’s blue butterfly looks very similar to the echo azure (Celastrina echo) on the back side, so you have to catch a glimpse of the underside of the hindwing (wing closer to the tail) to tell the difference. If you see any dark blotchy markings on the belly-side hindwing it’s likely an Asher’s. In the past, an azure with these blotchy markings was just considered a different “form” of echo. Other differences include host plants, the plant the butterfly lays its eggs on. Asher’s blue host plant is red osier dogwood (and possibly oceanspray), echo and Lucia blues use a broader range of host plants.

Amanda is looking forward to finding more Asher’s blues at the Metolius Preserve so she can continue to document the presence of this exciting new species.

Learn more: