Azanus ubaldus

Desert Babul Blue


by Matt Rowlings

copyright © 2003-2024

Show butterflies of: EU US
Photo: ubaldus1.jpg

Gran Canaria, Spain, March 2016

Photo: ubaldus2.jpg

Gran Canaria, Spain, March 2016

Field notes and information

Only occasional records from Gran Canaria and even fewer from Fuerteventura. It has been more regular in the last few years (2014+).

It is astonishingly small (at least the only individual I found). It is way smaller than the grass jewel Chilades trochylus which is usually recognised as the smallest European butterfly.

Identification & Similar species: Only the African babul blue A. jasius is similar, but it has never been recorded from the Canaries. It has bolder black underside markings and a cell spot. The current species has brownish underside markings and no cell spot.

Distribution & Flight: It seems to be an occasional coloniser of the eastern Canary Islands from Africa. Perhaps via importation of plants or wind blown individuals. Or perhaps a moving low density local population.

Records are from Costa Calma on Fuerteventura and Maspalomas on Gran Canaria. I've found just one single butterfly during 4 visits to these two islands. I've not visited during what is turning out to be optimal flight time - end November, early December, although records (including mine) are also from Feb/ March/ April.

Habitat & Behaviour: Fast and, being so small, very difficult to follow. Hugs the canopy of the trees of host food plants. It usually alights near the centre of impenetrable thorny bushes or high up, both locations are essentially impossible to access or even if attempted (which honestly isn't an option due to serious risk of personal injury on massive thorns) as agitation of the branches would disturb the nervous butterflies.

Photo: ubaldus4.jpg

Gran Canaria, Spain, March 2016

Photo: ubaldus5.jpg

Gran Canaria, Spain, March 2016

Photo: ubaldus3.jpg

Gran Canaria, Spain, March 2016

Size comparison of the very small C. trochylus and the even tinier A. ubaldus - the photos were rescaled so the 1 euro coins were the same size and superimposed so the butterflies can be compared.