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Butterflies in the family Lycaenidac are often the focus of conservation efforts. However, our understanding of lycaenid population dynamics has been limited to relatively few examples of long-term monitoring data that have been reported. Here, factors associated with population regulation are investigated using a complete record of a single population of the silvery blue, Glaucopsyche lygdamus Doubleday (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae). Adults of G. lygdamus were first observed in an annual grassland near Davis, California, in 1982 and were last seen in 2003. Relationships between inter-annual variation in abundance and climatic variables were examined, accounting for density dependent effects. Significant effects of both negative density dependence and climatic variation were detected, particularly precipitation and temperature during winter months. Variation in precipitation, the strongest predictor of abundance, was associated directly and positively with butterfly abundance in the same year. Winter temperatures had a negative effect in the same year, but had a lagged, positive effect on abundance in the subsequent year. Mechanistic hypotheses are posed that include climatic effects mediated through both larval and adult plant resources.