Riodinidae: Metalmarks

The common name “metalmarks” refers to the small metallic-looking spots commonly found on their wings. There are approximately 1,300 species of metalmark butterflies in the world. The majority of species occur in the neotropics. About 20 species of this family occur in North America; only one, the Mormon Metalmark, can be found in Idaho. It belongs to the Subfamily Riodininae.

Riodinidae is currently treated as a distinct family within the superfamily Papilionoidea, but in the past they were held to be the subfamily Riodininae of the Lycaenidae.


These dark-colored butterflies are small- to medium-sized with short, stocky wings and disproportionately long antennae that have slender, flattened clubs.

Riodids vary widely in their patterns, postures and behaviors. Similar to the lycaenids, the front legs of riodinidae males are small and not usable for walking. Females, however, have three pairs of full-sized, fully functional walking legs.

Adults usually perch with their wings spread open or slightly cocked.

Host plants

The larvae feed on plants of the families Asteraceae, Bromeliaceae, Bombacaceae, Cecropiaceae, Clusiaceae, Dilleniaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Fabaceae, Lecythidaceae, Loranthaceae, Malpighiaceae, Marantaceae, Melastomataceae, Myrtaceae, Orchidaceae, Rubiaceae, Sapindaceae, and Zingiberaceae, as well as bryophytes and lichens.

Adults nectar on flowers.

True Metalmarks (Riodininae)

Mormon Metalmark (Apodemia mormo) resting on flower.
Mormon Metalmark (Apodemia mormo) resting on flower.

This if the only member of this subfamily that occurs in Washington or Idaho.


Morman Metalmarks have short, broad wings that are usually spread at 45-75 degrees. They wings are dark brown-black above, cross by whit bands of angular shards, spots and check. Males are smaller than females and their wings are narrower.

Larva are stubby and have bristles on each segment.

Host Plants

Larva eat wild buckwheats, including tall buckwheat and slenderbush buckwheat.

Adults nectar on buckwheat, western clematis, monardella, pearly everlasting, aster, Canada thistle, rabbitbrush, and goldenrod.

Euselasia and relatives (Euselasiinae)

No members of this subfamily occur in Washington or Idaho.