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For Immediate Use                                                                                               Contact: Alison Sheehey, (760) 378-2531
May 15, 2008                                                                                                                      

San Emigdio Blue Butterfly - Plebejus emigdionis

Restoration Project Grows up to be important habitat for rare species

Weldon, CA - San Emigdio Blue (Plebejus emigdionis) is an extremely rare butterfly found only in montane desert regions of southern California from Inyo County southwest through the Mojave Desert and Southern Sierra Nevada to Los Angeles County. The host plant for its caterpillar is four-winged saltbush (shadscale) (Atriplex canescens). It is found only in desert canyons where shadscale scrub grows. Recently several parcels of habitat in the Kern River Valley where this rare species was documented have been plowed under by landowners. Audubon is working diligently to provide alternative habitat to prevent this species from being listed as endangered or worse.

The foresight of Audubon and its predecessor, The Nature Conservancy is evident by the development of a desert restoration site on the Kern River Preserve nature trail over 15 years ago. During the 2008 South Fork Butterfly count in late April, 42 San Emigdio Blue butterflies were found on the restored site. "I think it is really rewarding that this animal has been found on a site staff and volunteers replanted with native four-winged saltbush in 1993," said Reed Tollefson, Manager of the Kern River Preserve.

Audubon is working to create new habitat on an upland restoration area on our Sprague Ranch addition off Fay Ranch Road. Our Office & Field Assistant, Sandra Wieser is in charge of this project. (You can read about the progress on the site in our spring newsletter).

"I have watched how important the Kern River Preserve has become to the survival of this species as rare habitats disappear around the Kern River Valley," said Alison Sheehey. "Learning about rare and common species that exist in our backyards is so important because plants or animals can disappear in the wink of an eye; more often just because you don't know they are there."



Family: Gossamer-wing Butterflies (Lycaenidae) - Subfamily: Blues

Identification: Wing span: 7/8 - 1 1/8 inches (2.2 - 2.9 cm). Upperside of male pale blue with wide orangish-brown border; hindwing with faint orange band at outer margin. Female brown fading to blue near the thorax and orange bands near outer margins. Underside of both sexes white with many small black spots; forewing postmedian band has 2 elongated spots.

Life history: Single egg laid on four-wing saltbush leaves. Caterpillars eat leaves and are tended to by ants who harvest honeydew from larvae. Older caterpillars overwinter in the soil.

Flight: Three flights from April-September.

Habitat: Shadscale scrub in desert canyons and near washes.

Range: Very rare and local in southern California from Inyo County south through the Mojave Desert, San Joaquin Valley, Bouquet and Mint Canyons, and Los Angeles County.

NatureServe Global Status: G3 - Very rare or local throughout its range or found locally in a restricted range (21 to 100 occurrences). (Threatened throughout its range).

underside of male San Emigdio Blue

Found in desert habitats that contain Four-winged Saltbush. This is the female.

underside of female San Emigdio Blue


Since 1905 Audubon has been protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat that supports them. Our national network of community-based nature centers and chapters, scientific and educational programs, and advocacy on behalf of areas sustaining important bird populations, engage millions of people of all ages and backgrounds in positive conservation experiences.

About Audubon Kern River Preserve

The Kern River Preserve is managed by Audubon California for the preservation of one of California’s largest contiguous cottonwood-willow riparian forests and the wildlife it supports.

Audubon Kern River Preserve supporters provide financial and volunteer support for Preserve outreach, education, wildlife habitat protection & stewardship.

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