Gray Hairstreak: Essential Guide to This Unique Butterfly

The Gray Hairstreak is a fascinating butterfly that has caught the attention of many nature enthusiasts. Known for its distinct physical features, this butterfly can be found in various parts of the United States. If you’re interested in learning more about this captivating creature, we’ve got you covered in this article.

Residing in diverse habitats such as open spaces, parks, and grasslands, the Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus) is quite adaptable. In terms of appearance, it sports a pale gray color with a large orange square spot near its tail, bordered by a black line on the basal side (Education MDC MO Gov). Additionally, the Gray Hairstreak showcases narrow “hairstreaks” in white, black, and orange tones.

Their unique strategy for avoiding predators, such as jumping spiders, is by having what appears to be a false head. The spiders often attack this area and are left without a target to inject venom into (UWM.edu Field Station). This clever defense mechanism makes Gray Hairstreaks particularly fascinating to observe and study.

Gray Hairstreak Overview

Physical Characteristics

Gray Hairstreaks are small butterflies with a wingspan of 1 – 1¼ inches (2.5 – 3.2 cm). They have light gray wings with a black and white line across them. Their hindwings feature an orange-capped black spot and blue scaling above the tails. The upper surfaces of their wings are gray in males and blue-gray in females. The top of their head and tip of their tails show an orange hue.

Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Order: Lepidoptera
  • Family: Lycaenidae
  • Genus: Strymon
  • Species: S. melinus

Distribution and Habitat

Gray Hairstreaks (Strymon melinus) are found throughout North, Central, and South America. In the United States, they are most common in the southeast and along the west coast. These butterflies thrive in open spaces, parks, road edges, and grasslands.

Lifecycle and Reproduction

Gray Hairstreaks undergo a complete metamorphosis with four life stages:

  1. Eggs: laid singly on host plants
  2. Larvae: caterpillars feed on host plants
  3. Pupae: resting stage in a chrysalis
  4. Adults: butterflies emerge to mate and reproduce

Diet and Host Plants

The Gray Hairstreak’s diet primarily consists of nectar from various flowering plants. As caterpillars, they feed on host plants, which vary depending on their geographic location. Some common host plants include:

  • Legumes
  • Mallows
  • Cotton
  • Clover
  • Beans
  • Alfalfa

Gray Hairstreak Behavior and Ecology

Flight Pattern

Gray Hairstreaks exhibit a unique flight pattern: they remain close to the ground and fly erratically. Their preferred environment includes open spaces, parks, road edges, and grasslands1.

Mating and Egg Laying

Adults of this species tend to mate and lay eggs during daytime. Females oviposit on the flowers and young shoots of various host plants, such as legumes and mallows2.

Host Plants:

  • Legumes
  • Mallows

Interaction with Ants

Gray hairstreaks have a fascinating relationship with ants:

  • Ants are attracted to the caterpillars because they secrete a sweet substance.
  • In return, the ants provide protection to the caterpillars from predators3.

Summary of interactions:

Gray Hairstreak Caterpillars Ants
Secrete sweet substance Attracted to sweet substance
Receive protection Provide protection to caterpillars

Host Plants and Their Importance

Host plants play a vital role in the life cycle of the Gray Hairstreak butterfly. They provide shelter and nourishment for the larvae, leading to a successful metamorphosis. This section will explain the importance of host plants and discuss specific plant families that the Gray Hairstreak butterfly prefers.

Fabaceae Family

The Fabaceae family, also known as the legume family, is one of the most important host plant families for Gray Hairstreak larvae. Some examples include:

  • Pea plants
  • Beans
  • Clover (Trifolium)

The larvae feed on flowers and leaves from plants in this family, ensuring their growth and development into healthy butterflies.

Malvaceae Family

Another essential family of host plants for the Gray Hairstreak is the Malvaceae family. This family includes mallows and cotton plants. According to Art Shapiro’s Butterfly Site, the Gray Hairstreak is commonly found using mallows as a host plant in certain regions.

Other Plant Families

The Gray Hairstreak is known for being highly polyphagous, feeding on host plants from several different families. Aside from the Fabaceae and Malvaceae families, they have been observed using plants from families such as:

  • Mint (Lamiaceae)
  • Aster (Asteraceae)

In addition to the mentioned plant families, Gray Hairstreaks also utilize shrubs, trees, and flowers found in meadows and other habitats.

In conclusion, the availability and diversity of host plants are crucial for the survival and success of Gray Hairstreaks in the wild. By understanding the host plants preferred by this butterfly, we can better appreciate their ecological importance and contribute to their conservation.

Gray Hairstreak Conservation and Interaction with Humans

Natural Predators

Gray Hairstreak butterflies are preyed upon by a variety of predators, such as jumping spiders. An interesting defense mechanism of these butterflies is their red spot, which effectively mimics a false head. This allows them to escape predators that typically attack the front end for injecting venom1.

Crop Pests and Management

While Gray Hairstreaks can live in various environments such as disturbed areas, mountains, and even weedy regions2, they may sometimes lay eggs on crops. For example:

  • Temperate woodland areas.
  • Wild grasslands.

As pests, they may cause harm to a variety of plants, making their management essential. They are often managed by:

  • Monitoring crop damages.
  • Using biological controls such as natural predators.

Conservation Efforts

Despite being a species that adapts well to various environments, conservation efforts are still crucial.

Some conservation actions include:

  • Preserving their habitats.
  • Encouraging a balance between Gray Hairstreaks and their predators.

Here is a comparison table of Gray Hairstreaks in different habitats:

Habitat Gray Hairstreak Adaptability
Disturbed areas/mountains/weedy area High
Temperate woodland areas Moderate
Crops Low

Fun Facts about Gray Hairstreak Butterflies

Art and Symbolism

Gray hairstreak butterflies are often featured in art pieces due to their delicate beauty and unique appearance. For example, their wings showcase a blend of gray and blue with eye-catching white and orange bands. As a symbol, gray hairstreak butterflies commonly represent:

  • Transformation
  • Renewal
  • Adaptability

Unique Anatomy and Traits

Appearance

▪ Gray Hairstreak butterflies have a wingspan ranging from 1 to 1¼ inches (2.5 – 3.2 cm).
▪ Their wings are gray with a hint of blue.
▪ Males are typically gray, while females exhibit a blue-gray hue on their upper wing surfaces.

Comparison Table: Males vs. Females

Trait Males Females
Color Gray Blue-gray
Top-head Orange-cap Same as males
Spot Orange-capped black spot Same as males

Unique Traits

Gray Hairstreak caterpillars exhibit a distinct trait known as a “false head.” The caterpillar’s rear end has an eye-like organ that resembles a head to confuse predators.

  • Adaptability: Gray Hairstreaks are known to inhabit different environments, such as open spaces, parks, road edges, and grasslands.

Diet

  • Nectar: These butterflies feed on nectar from various plants, such as milkweed, goldenrod, and mint.
  • Fruits: Gray Hairstreak butterflies also enjoy consuming ripe and rotting fruits.

Host Plants and Caterpillars

  • Host Plants: Gray Hairstreak caterpillars can feed on a wide range of host plants, showcasing their adaptability.
  • Relation with Ants: These caterpillars have a mutualistic relationship with some species of ants, where the ants protect caterpillars from predators, and the caterpillars provide honeydew as a food source for the ants.

Footnotes

  1. Field Station 2

  2. Missouri Department of Conservation 2

  3. Florida’s Wildflowers & Butterflies

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Newly Eclosed Great Purple Hairstreak

 

Subject: iridescent blue bug
Location: Asheboro, NC
March 25, 2015 1:26 pm
I took this picture outside my house. Was wondering if you could tell me what kind of bug this is. I’ve never seen one like it before. It has an iridescent blue body and wings similar to a butterfly. The wings can fold up on its back like a butterfly.
Signature: Amanda

Freshly Eclosed Great Purple Hairstreak
Freshly Eclosed Great Purple Hairstreak

Dear Amanda,
These are marvelous images of a newly eclosed Great Purple Hairstreak, and you can compare your image to this image on BugGuide.
  Unless there was some injury involoved, or a genetic aberration, the wings on your individual should have continued to expand and harden enabling this lovely butterfly to fly.

Letter 2 – Coral Hairstreak

 

Moth or Butterfly on Butterfly Weed
I went up to the farm Missouri) with my husband and found this insect on a butterfly weed plant. I was wondering what sort of insect this is? I like it black and white face and antenna. Thanks Mary There are actually two insects here ( mating?) but this photo is the clearest of the actual insect.
Jackie and Mary

Dear Jackie and Mary
Your butterfly is a member of the Gossamer Winged Butterflies in the Family Lycaenidae, more specifically one of the Blues in the Subfamily Polyommatinae. We are guessing either the genus Plebejus or Lycaeides. There is much variation in coloration in local populations within the same species. Most larvae feed on legumes including lupines, rattleweed and clover. The Lycaean Blues are the group of butterflies that fascinated the great author Vladimir Nabokov.

Thanks Thank you for your quick reply and the information about the identification of the butterfly and the information about the author. I have just started in photography and have found that now I am becoming very interested in the names of insects and wildflowers. I did find a pretty clear photo that shows the other butterfly. Thanks again
Mary

Your photos are very nice Mary, We surely appreciate the latest romantic image. Is it any wonder the author of Lolita was so besmitten with these lovely creatures?

Ed. Note: We just received the following correction.
misIDed pictures Hi, I love the pictures on your site, I noticed a couple of mistakes in the identification of two pictures. It is a Lycaenid, however the species is definitely Harkenclenus titus, the Coral Hairstreak, which is a beautiful tailless hairstreak, and is quite uncommon in my experience.
Mike

Letter 3 – Gray Hairstreak

 

Grey Butterfly and inchworm. Related?
July 12, 2009
This butterfly caught my eye because as it landed on my eggplant, it moved its back wings back and forth to flash this set of brightly colored orange spots. I’ve never seen this type of butterfly before, and this is also the first year I’ve had inchworms in my garden. Are they related? I also don’t know if these inch worms are good or bad, I maintain an organic garden, but they have destroyed a whole head of lettuce in a single day, is there another plant they might like to eat instead so I don’t have to kill them?
Back yard gardener
Southern California, Mojave Desert Region

Gray Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak

Dear Gardener,
Your lovely butterfly is a Gray Hairstreak, Strymon melinus.  This is a wide ranging species that has caterpillars that feed on a variety of plants.  It is unrelated to the inchworm, which is the caterpillar of a Geometrid Moth.  Though we promote tolerance for insects, we have a major problem when certain species feed on our garden produce.  We don’t think twice about squashing caterpillars that proliferate on our leafy greens.  One or two caterpillars we would tolerate, but droves must go.  We actually allow the White Lined Sphinx Caterpillars to feed on our fuchsia, but we do not like eating lettuce or collards that have holes and caterpillar droppings on them.

Letter 4 – Gray Hairstreak

 

possibly a skipper
August 15, 2009
Hello, this was on a eupatorium perfoliatium. I could probably look through books and find it but am being lazy. If you don’t have time I will understand.
thank you, Louise
Orefield, PA 18069 USA

Gray Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak

Hi Louise,
Your butterfly is a Gray Hairstreak, Strymon melinus.  According to BugGuide:  “Food  Caterpillar hosts: Flowers and fruits from an almost endless variety of (usually) herbaceous plants; most often from pea (Fabaceae) and mallow (Malvaceae) families including beans (Phaseolus), clovers (Trifolium), cotton (Gossypium), and mallow (Malva).
Adult food: Nectar from many flower species including dogbane, milkweed, mint, winter cress, goldenrod, tick trefoil, and white sweet clover.
Life Cycle  Males perch all afternoon on small trees and shrubs to seek receptive females. Eggs are laid singly on flowers of host plant. Young caterpillars feed on flowers and fruits; older ones may eat leaves. Caterpillars are sometimes attended by ants–they receive a sugary solution from the dorsal nectary organ (Idaho Museum of Natural History, BugGuide photos). Chrysalids hibernate.
RemarksThe most widespread hairstreak in North America.

Letter 5 – Gray Hairstreak

 

Moth on Hybiscus bud
April 9, 2010
Hi Daniel,
Here is a picture of a moth on my hybiscus. It appears to use the small tips on the end of it’s wings to to touch the flower bud. I think it was eating the afids.
Any idea what kind of moth it is?
Mike Healy
central Florida

Gray Hairstreak

Hi Mike,
This is not a moth, but a butterfly, more specifically, a Gray Hairstreak, Strymon melinus which may be viewed on BugGuide.  Your Gray Hairstreak is not feeding on Aphids.  All butterflies and moths that feed subsist on a strictly liquid diet, with most species taking nectar, though some feed on fermented fruit, sap and occasionally carrion and other unusual fare.

Letter 6 – Gray Hairstreak

 

Subject: Is it a Gray Hairstreak Butterfly?
Location: Coryell County, central Texas
February 7, 2013 3:17 pm
Wow, what a mimic! This little butterfly kept rubbing its hind wings together, making the projectiles tremble like antennae. It also tended to feed head-down, and the orange spots on the hind wings look like eyes. I’m guessing this protects its actual head as well as looking a little scary. Well played, little butterfly, well played. Is it a Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)?
Signature: Ellen

Gray Hairstreak

Dear Ellen,
We are in 100% agreement with your hypothesis of the mimicry of the Gray Hairstreak.  These may be your finest photographs yet.

Gray Hairstreak

Letter 7 – Gray Hairstreak

 

Subject:  Butterfly
Location:  Kings Canyon National Park, California
July 30, 2014
dear what’s that bug?
my journey to kings canyon certainly gave opportunities to see insects!
can you tell me what this small butterfly is?
and i assume that’s a honeybee?
thank you.
clare. los angeles.

Gray Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak

Hi Clare,
The color is somewhat washed out, but this appears to be a Gray Hairstreak,
Strymon melinus, a species found throughout North America, according to BugGuide.  The Gray Hairstreak is sharing the blossom with a Honey Bee.

Letter 8 – Gray Hairstreak

 

Subject: Small black butterfly with orange eyespots
Location: Nebraska
September 14, 2016 6:01 am
Greetings!
I am from south-central Nebraska and when I went out to put birdseed in the feeder this morning, I saw this little butterfly resting on my sun coleus. I have never seen one like it before and was unable to locate one in your archives. It has an approximately 1 1/4″ wingspan. I’m sorry that the focus is a bit lacking but I still haven’t mastered this camera. I hope that there is enough detail for you to be able to work your magic! Thanks in advance!
Signature: Huskerkim

Gray Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak

Dear Huskerkim,
Images of Gray Hairstreaks,
Strymon melinus, are archived on our site under the Gossamer Wings Butterflies category.  According to BugGuide:  “Males perch all afternoon on small trees and shrubs to seek receptive females. Eggs are laid singly on flowers of host plant. Young caterpillars feed on flowers and fruits; older ones may eat leaves. Caterpillars are sometimes attended by ants, which receive a sugary solution from the dorsal nectary organ … . Chrysalids hibernate.”  We believe the dark coloration on your individual indicates it is a male, perhaps perching “all afternoon on small trees and shrubs to seek receptive females.”

Dear Daniel,
Thank you so much for your reply.  We will keep an eye out for such females!  Also, I have attached a better photo that I took later with my phone.
Thanks again!
Kim

Gray Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak

Thanks for the much sharper image Kim.  Obviously he is waiting patiently for that female.

Letter 9 – Gray Hairstreak and Pearl Crescent

 

new additions
I was trying to get photos of hummingbirds and ended up turning my attention to these butterflies. These are very common here (Memphis, TN) and across most of the country, but I didn’t see them on your site so I’m passing them along if you would like them. If I’ve identified them correctly they are a Pearl Crescent and a Gray Hairstreak. Thanks,
Tim Doyle
www.WildlifeTheater.com

Gray Hairstreak Pearl Crescent

Hi Tim,
We recently posted our first Pearl Crescent photo, but are thrilled to have another. The Gray Hairstreak is a new species for us.

Letter 10 – Great Purple Hairstreak

 

hairstreak?
We found this little fella at our local zoo’s butterfly garden and were just fascinated by it. He rubbed the "antennae" on the back of his wings together and they wiggled just like real ones. Sorry the pic’s so fuzzy, but its the best we could do. Went thru your whole list but couldn’t find it. Is it some sort of hairstreak? Thanks,
JT
Central Oklahoma

Hi JT,
This little beauty is a Great Purple Hairstreak, Atlides halesus.

Letter 11 – Great Purple Hairstreak

 


Just curious about this little critter, any help welcomed. I’m having a hard time identifying him. Thanks for your help. Thanks,
Denise Cox

Hi Denise,
Happy New Year. This little beauty is a Great Purple Hairstreak, Atlides halesus. Its coloration is actually a vibrant iridescent blue when the wings are open. We wish you had provided us with a location, but we are guessing you are writing from Texas or Florida.

Good morning! Thank you for the quick response. You were right, Florida (Jacksonville) it is. He was just there for the viewing, and I just had to get a snap. Have a wonderful New Year! Thanks,
Denise Cox

Letter 12 – Great Purple Hairstreak

 

Swallowtail butterfly?
October 19, 2009
I’ve had a difficult time identifying this butterfly. It has markings similar to a Pipvine Swallowtail, but not close enough for a positive ID. Observed 10-18-2009 in Central Texas. Can you help?
Regards
Ed Sparks
McKinney Falls St. Park, Austin TX

Great Purple Hairstreak
Great Purple Hairstreak

Hi Ed,
Your lovely little butterfly is much too small to be a swallowtail.  It is a Great Purple Hairstreak.  Your photo is exquisite.

Hi Daniel,
Thank you for the kind words.  What a magnificent butterfly!  It never opened its wings on the flower, so I never saw the beautiful colors on its back.
Thank you for the identification!
Regards,
Ed Sparks
Austin, TX

Letter 13 – #9992: Great Purple Hairstreak

 

Beautiful Butterfly
May 11, 2010
My 4 year old son and I found and caught this guy in my backyard. I’ve never seen a butterfly with these colors and markings before. He seemed to be having trouble flying, so we gently scooped him up and moved him onto a potted plant, where he’s been content to hang out for hours now. We’re in northern Florida near wetlands (St. John’s River). Can you help us identify?
Curious Dad
Orange Park, FL

Great Purple Hairstreak

Dear Curious Dad,
Though the Great Purple Hairstreak, Atlides halesus, ranges as far north as New York, Oregon and Illinois, according to BugGuide, it only breeds in the Southern states.  Most of our reports come from Florida, though we have also gotten photos from Texas.  The presence of the iridescent blue patch on the underside of the forewing identifies this as a male, though in two of your images, that patch is not visible.

Letter 14 – Great Purple Hairstreak

 

Interesting Creature
Location: Savannah GA, USA
February 25, 2011 1:15 am
Hi there!
Found this little guy hanging out. At first glance I thought it was two insects in a mating position, but a closer look reveals that it in fact is one bug. Any idea at what type of bug this may be?
Thanks Again!
Signature: Daryll

Great Purple Hairstreak

Hi Daryll,
This little beauty is a Great Purple Hairstreak.  You may compare your individual to the photos posted on BugGuide.

Letter 15 – Great Purple Hairstreak

 

Subject:  Moth? Butterfly? What is this blue lovely?
Geographic location of the bug:  Benbrook, TX, USA (DFW area)
Date: 11/26/2017
Time: 06:23 PM EDT
This beautiful butterfly/moth was on our front porch when we got home today. Posted it to facebook and no answers yet. I thought it was a moth because I’ve never seen a butterfly with it’s wings folded like that. My mom thinks it’s a butterfly because the antennae are not fuzzy. What is it? It’s still outside several hours later. Pretty little critter! Thanks!
How you want your letter signed:  Shara

Great Purple Hairstreak

Dear Shara,
We are very excited to post your lovely image of a Great Purple Hairstreak, a Gossamer Winged Butterfly.  Though we have several images in our archives of this species, we have either images showing the closed wings, or we have images of recently emerged individuals with wings not yet fully expanded.  We suspect your individual has also recently emerged from a pupa, and it was perhaps not quite ready to fly when your encounter occurred.

Thank you for the response! This is sad though. It must have let us so close to take pictures because it was already dead. It was upside down on the rug today when I returned home (It was windy outside) Still beautiful, but a small chip is missing from the wing and the antennae fell off 🙁 Sad to think that it had just recently emerged and died so soon. I’ve brought it inside for now.

Letter 16 – Great Purple Hairstreak Caterpillar

 

Caterpillar in Central Texas
Location: Austin, Texas
April 3, 2011 9:31 pm
We found this caterpillar crawling across the road. Can you help ID it? It kind of looks like a Frosted Elfin or a Green Oakblue but neither of those is supposed to be in Cetral Texas. My sone is taking this to show and tell tomorrow (we will free it in the butterfly garden afterwards), so any help woudl be appreciated (not just for tomorrow). I’ll keep looking on the web..
Thanks
Signature: Karyn and Erik

Great Purple Hairstreak Caterpillar

Dear Karyn and Erik,
Sorry, we are stumped as well.  Sadly, it doesn’t seem to have any distinguishing features.

Hi Daniel,
Thanks so much anyway. The only feature I could see is what looked like two tiny eyes/ eye shapes close together that both formed the shape of a diamond on the top of the head. I have more pictures of the underside and snout, I could send you if you would like. I will keep looking on the web too.
Have a good day,
Karyn

Great Purple Hairstreak Caterpillar

Hi Daniel,
I think I found it. I believe it is a Great Purple Hairstreak. See this link:
http://www.butterfliesofamerica.com/imagehtmls/Lycaenidae/Atlides_halesus_corcorani_4th_instar_ex_F_05-IV-2008_USA_CA_San_Bernadino_Co_vic_Mt_Manchester_Dead_Mountains_3400_3_i.htm
The diamond shaped mark on the head is almost identical to the caterpillar we found. I have attached a higher res photo that I took, in
case the first one did not make it through.
Your site is great! The second graders loved looking at all the pictures.
Karyn and Erik
Austin,Texas

Thanks for writing back Karyn and Erik.
You did a great job of tracking down the Great Purple Hairstreak Caterpillar’s identity.  We agree that you have found the correct species.  We had to create a new category for Lycaenid Caterpillars.

Letter 17 – Great Purple Hairstreak: Newly Metamorphosed

 

Whats this beautiful bug?
Wed, Mar 25, 2009 at 3:40 PM

Great Purple Hairstreak
Great Purple Hairstreak

I have been loving your site for a few years now. So,let me make this short…what is this? Moth?Thanks for your help.
Myra in Ft Polk, La
Fort Polk,LA

Great Purple Hairstreak
Great Purple Hairstreak

Dear Myra,
How lucky are you??? You have witnessed a newly metamorphosed Great Purple Hairstreak, Atlides halesus, expand its wings. This Gossamer Wing is a southern species. According to BugGuide, the “Larvae feed on mistletoe, live oak, western sycamore, and desert ironwood.” Thanks so much for your kind compliment. We hope our humble site has brought a new appreciation for the smaller things in life to many of our readers.

Great Purple Hairstreak
Great Purple Hairstreak

Letter 18 – Hairstreak

 

Butterfly
May 25, 2010
Hello Daniel,
I haven’t been able to ID this little butterfly after looking through 35 pages of butterflies on your website. (What a treat, butterflies are my favorite) Can you help with its ID? Sorry I couldn’t get a photo with open wings, which may have made IDing a bit easier. Thank you for everything.
Richard
North Middle Tennessee

Hairstreak

Hi Richard,
It is a Hairstreak, but since we are late for work, we can’t look up species right now.
http://bugguide.net/node/view/383/bgimage

Thank you Daniel,  for taking the time to answer my butterfly request. Hairstreak narrows it down close enough for me, please don’t go to a lot of trouble searching for the sub species for me. I know you are busy and I don’t want to take up any of your valuable time. Thanks again and have a wonderful day.
Richard

Letter 19 – Gray Hairstreak Butterfly

 

moth identification
Location:  western north carolina
July 23, 2010 11:55 am
this was a very friendly moth that was so happy with my camera that it hopped right on it. i love the splash of orange and the black and white antennae. what is it?
mike

Gray Hairstreak

Dear Mike,
This is actually a Hairstreak Butterfly in the subfamily Theclinae, but we are reluctant to identify the species as so many look alike.  You can see the many examples on BugGuide.

Species Identified by Eric Eaton
August 11, 2010
Hi, Daniel:
Went through the site and found only a few minor corrections/clarifications, most recent to oldest: …
… Hairstreak Butterfly, western North Carolina:  Gray Hairstreak, Strymon melinus.
Otherwise, either very good or “I can’t help with that:-)”
Is the book out for everybody yet?  If so, I’ll link it to my blog, share on Facebook, etc.  I did get the pre-order e-mail from you.
Eric

Thanks Eric,
Now we can link to the species page on BugGuide for the Gray Hairstreak.  The book will be available in October 2010.

Letter 20 – Hairstreak from Mexico is example of protective mimicry!!!

 

Subject: Two headed butterfly
Location: Cozumel island, Mexico
August 29, 2012 10:37 pm
Hi guys,
I photographied this butterfly on Cozumel island, Mexico on january 17th, 5 years ago. I found it on low tropical forest.
Can you help me to identify it?
Thank you very much, in advanced.
Best wishes.
Signature: Cristopher Gonzalez

Hairstreak

Hi Christopher,
This little beauty is one of the Hairstreaks in the subfamily Theclinae.  We doubt this species is represented on BugGuide, but we haven’t the time to research the species right now.  We wish your photo did not crop out the antennae, but perhaps you cropped them in post production and you are able to resend the original digital file so we can format it.  Your photo does show the protective mimicry the butterflies in this subfamily exhibit.  A predator might make a grab for the dominant face on the right of your photo and find itself with a mouth full of wing while the Gossamer Winged beauty flies away. 

Letter 21 – Hairstreak: Great Purple Hairstreak???

 

MOTH ?
I have searched for hours and not found this one.
Jan in Florida

Hi Jan,
We are nearly certain this is a Great Purple Hairstreak, Atlides halesus. We are posting a link to Featured Creatures with more information. We believe it is newly metamorphosed and its wings have not yet attained their full size and hardened.

Letter 22 – Newly Eclosed Great Purple Hairstreak

 

Subject: Hopefully you can help me!
Location: Copperas Cove, TX
April 8, 2017 10:11 pm
Hello!!
While on a walk today I came across something interesting. I’ve never seen one before and am really wondering what it is. I thought a moth of some kind but was not sure. Any help is appreciated!!
Signature: D.H.

Newly Eclosed Great Purple Hairstreak

Dear D.H.,
This is not a Moth.  It is a newly eclosed Butterfly, the Great Purple Hairstreak,
Atlides halesus.  When Butterflies and Moths emerge from the Pupa, their wings are not yet fully expanded, and your individual has recently emerged from the pupal stage, known as the Chrysalis, and its wings have not yet fully expanded.  Until the wings expand, it will not be able to fly.  According to BugGuide, it is:  “Iridescent bluish green to purple on the thorax and basal half of the wings. Ventrally all of the wings have a crimson spot near the base; ventral forewing otherwise plain brown (female) or brown with patch of blue (male); ventral hind wing with three rows of greenish spots near the apex. Males have a large scent patch on the upper side of the front wing.”  The Great Purple Hairstreak is a beautiful butterfly.

Letter 23 – Possibly Southern Hairstreak

 

ID Butterfly
Will you please help me ID this butterfly. I think it is some type of Hairstreak. This picture was taken on Sapelo Island, GA on May 21, 2008. Thanks,
Lee McHugh
Tallahassee, FL

Hi Lee,
The angle of view makes exact identification difficult for novices like us, but we believe this is a Southern Hairstreak, Satyrium favonius, as evidenced by an image posted to BugGuide.

Letter 24 – Rare Sighting: Atala Hairstreak in Virginia!!!

 

Subject:  insect ID
Geographic location of the bug:  south central Virginia
Date: 07/31/2019
Time: 09:04 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Please help me identify this bug.  Thanks.
How you want your letter signed:  Marc

Atala Hairstreak

Dear Marc,
This is such an unusual sighting, that we are quite excited to post it.  A black butterfly with a red abdomen is quite distinctive, and we quickly identified at the Atala Butterfly on the Blue Butterflies page of the University of Florida Gardening Solutions site where it states:  “
The Atala butterfly (Eumaeus atala Poey) is a rare butterfly with a limited distribution in South Florida. The outside of the butterflies’ wings (when folded together) are deep black, with curved rows of iridescent blue spots. They have a bright red-orange abdomen. The open wings of the male butterflies feature an iridescent, bright blue, while the females have only small streaks of blue on the wings. Newly hatched caterpillars are very tiny and pale yellow. Over a day or two they develop into bright red caterpillars with yellow spots.  Atala butterflies suffered massive population declines in the early 1900s; early settlers nearly wiped out the Atala’s preferred host plant, coontie, for its starch. Today, Atala butterflies are considered rare, but the planting of coontie in butterfly gardens and as an ornamental landscape plant has helped the butterfly populations rebound a bit.”  According to Featured Creatures:  ” the Atala butterfly was thought to be extinct from 1937 until 1959 (Klots 1951; Rawson 1961). Although still considered rare with limited distribution, it is now found in local colonies where its host plant, coontie (Zamia integrifolia Linnaeus. f.), is used in butterfly gardens or as an ornamental plant in landscapes. ”  According to BugGuide where it is called the Atala Hairstreak:  “considered by FL to be a ‘Species of Greatest Conservation Need’ (SGCN).”  We are excited not only because of the rarity of the Atala Hairstreak, but also because though it is found in the Caribbean, North American sightings seem to be limited to southern Florida.  We cannot imagine how this gorgeous Atala Hairstreak found its way to central Virginia.  You might want to contact the Prince William Conservation Alliance and the Butterfly Society of Virginia to report your significant sighting.

Letter 25 – Regal Hairstreak from Belize

 

Rare butterfly from Belize
Hello,
I spotted this butterfly in the Central/Eastern section of Belize on a private reserve. It is the first time identified on the property. Can you please help me identify it? Thank you,
Ryan Ramsey

Hi Ryan,
It took a bit of time, but we identified your Regal Hairstreak, Evenus regalis, on a great Mexican Butterfly website.

Letter 26 – Regal Hairstreak from Mexico

 

Butterfly?
Location: Mexico, Puerto Vallarta (west coast)
February 1, 2012 5:55 pm
I saw this amazing little colourful thing the other day, watering flowers..(it is dry season here now) and got some good pictures of it. but i would really like to know what this is.. never seen anything like it!
Signature: Nathali

Regal Hairstreak

Dear Nathali,
What a positively gorgeous butterfly this is, and we have identified it as a Regal Hairstreak,
Evenus regalis, thanks to an online photo by Nelson Dobbs that alas does not do the colors justice.  The Butterflies of America website has some lovely photos of Regal Hairstreaks that were photographed in Guatemala and Mexico.  

Letter 27 – Sheridan's Green Hairstreak: State Butterfly of Wyoming

 

Wyoming’s state butterfly
Sun, May 10, 2009 at 5:39 AM
Hi Lisa Anne and Daniel, this past winter Wyoming was first designated a state butterfly, the Sheridan’s Green Hairstreak. The process was begun by some Sheridan County third grade students as a civics project. They wanted it to be the state insect but a sponsoring Sheridan legistator suggested naming it the state butterfly instead, “to leave the insect open for other students who may want to designate the state spider, for example”…insert your own joke here.
Anyway, it is a beautiful creature.
Peace,
Dwaine
near Powder River, WY

Sheridan's Hairstreak
Sheridan's Hairstreak

Thanks Dwaine,
We are happy to hear that Wyoming now has a state butterfly and can’t wait to hear about the soon to be selected state spider.  This lovely Sheridan’s Green Hairstreak, Callophrys sheridanii is a welcome addition to our butterfly archives, which have grown significantly thanks to your numerous wonderful photographs.

Letter 28 – Unknown Hairstreak

 

odd looking butterfly
July 30, 2009
Found what I think is a butterfly on one of our sunflowers today. It has what appears to be 2 bodies sticking out of its back.
Chris
Conroe Tx

Hairstreak
Hairstreak

Hi Chris,
This is some species of Hairstreak in the subfamilyTheclinae of the Gossamer Wings.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

    View all posts

6 thoughts on “Gray Hairstreak: Essential Guide to This Unique Butterfly”

  1. My husband and I caught this same green geometrid moth?? last night (Auckland NZ)when it was attracted to our outside lights. It is not the native NZ pururi moth – it is almost double the size and irridescent green all over. So….it is NOT a NZ moth. I let it go but since the last sighting was a few months ago it is obviously reproducing. Can anyone else shed some light on it’s origin please?

    Reply
  2. Hello, Ed,

    Your photo of the Great Purple Hairstreak is so good I would love to paint it.

    May I have your permission to paint it? If so, I would be glad to credit you as the photographer.

    Reply
  3. Hello, Ed,

    Your photo of the Great Purple Hairstreak is so good I would love to paint it.

    May I have your permission to paint it? If so, I would be glad to credit you as the photographer.

    Reply
  4. I believe the TRI airport (in TN just below the VA state line) included a great deal of coontie in their new parking lot landscaping (it’s really lovely, not kidding– like a mini greenspace).
    It would be lovely if this is contributing to a northward expansion of the Atala range… maybe we’ll see some too!

    Reply

Leave a Comment