One of the cutest native insects is the Koa Butterfly, also known as Blackburn’s Butterfly or the Hawaiian Blue – Udara Blackburnii.  The Koa butterfly is one of only two butterfly species endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. 

The Koa Butterfly has a wingspan of about an inch.  When a koa butterfly lands it usually holds its wings upright which displays the underside of its turquoise green wings.  When they feed, the butterflies unfurl their coiled-up proboscis into a long straw to sip the sugary nectar at the bottom of the flower.

Koa butterflies are fascinating to examine up-close.  The wings are covered with rows of iridescent scales that reflect the light.  The body is covered in a wooly fuzz. 

The top sides of the wings are blue — which give butterflies in this group their common name — the “blues”.  When light reflects off the iridescent scales on the top-side of the wings, the Hawaiian Blue is spectacular to see.

The genus Udara has about 38 species classified into 5 sub-genera found from South Asia to Australia.  Eons ago, a pair of ancestral blues made the journey across the Pacific Ocean and landed in Hawaii where they evolved into a unique species. 

One of my favorite things to photograph is the face.  How cute is that little butterfly!

The caterpillars have an odd shape and eat the leaves of koa, hence the Koa Butterfly — although they can also feed on ‘a‘li‘I, olomea, and mamaki.  This cute little caterpillar will pupate and emerge a magnificent koa butterfly in just a matter of weeks.

SOURCES:

Udara Genus of Butterflies

Udara Blackburnii, Wikipedia

Udara Blackburnii, Hawaii Biological Survey, Bishop Museum

Udara blackburni (Tuely, 1878)