Lycaena arota nubila

'Cloudy' Tailed Copper

Lycaena arota nubila is a scarce tailed copper described nearly a century ago from Griffith Park in Los Angeles County. According to Ken Davenport's update on the Emmels' book, nubila was extirpated from there long ago. I found a couple of males at another known site, Santa Anita Canyon near Mt. Wilson, on June 26th, 2019. I searched for females the next day because it is the dorsal coloration of the females that really sets these apart from nomiate arota, which I've found to the east in Big Dalton Canyon and more recently at Volcan Mountain in San Diego County. The Emmels (1973) describe nubila as darker and with a wider marginal band than nom. arota. My return trip yielded only a couple more males. I would return a third time - on June 27th - and then again in July on the 1st, the 3rd, the 8th, the 11th, 22nd, 26th, and - finally - the 31st before seeing a single female. What I learned is that males emerge before females and increase in numbers over a period of weeks, staking out territories such as open pathways from a perch, such as a shrub or low tree branch. They are easy to find along a hiking trail. The females I've seen we're on or even in the host bushes, ovipositing on stems, basking, or just resting. So what worked for me was to be patient and carefully check the host plants.

Nubila was named by John A. Comstock in 1926, and the types were collected in early July, 1922. Santa Anita Canyon is about as far east as these can be found, and they range west into the Santa Monica mountains (or perhaps once did - I do not know the status of this butterfly to the west). The host is Ribes aureum var. gracillimum, Golden Currant.

Lycaena arota nubila - Cloudy Tailed Copper
A male Lycaena arota nubila perched and waiting for a female to come along. Santa Anita Canyon in the San Gabriel mountains above Sierra Madre and Arcadia (accessed from the Chantry Flats trailhead). June 25, 2019.
Lycaena arota nubila - Cloudy Tailed Copper
Showing the ventral of a male 'Cloudy' Tailed Copper, same time and place as above.
Lycaena arota nubila - Cloudy Tailed Copper
This is a different male a couple of days later along the same trail as above. June 27, 2019.
Lycaena arota nubila - Cloudy Tailed Copper
A female Lycaena arota nubila from Santa Anita Canyon. July 31, 2019.
Lycaena arota nubila - Cloudy Tailed Copper
Same individual, a fresh female, showing the ventral side. Note the longer tails.
Lycaena arota nubila - Cloudy Tailed Copper
One more of the same female.
egg of Lycaena arota nubila - Cloudy Tailed Copper
Eggs on a stem of the host plant, Ribes aureum gracillimum - Golden Currant. Santa Anita Canyon, August 9, 2019.
Lycaena arota nubila - Cloudy Tailed Copper
Comstock's original description of nubila in the Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Sciences, Jan.-April 1926.

©Dennis Walker