Red Banded Hairstreak: Essential Facts and Tips for Butterfly Lovers

The Red Banded Hairstreak, scientifically known as Calycopis cecrops, is a captivating species of butterfly with distinct markings on its wings. With its unique patterns, this small butterfly has charmed enthusiasts and researchers alike.

As its name suggests, the Red Banded Hairstreak sports a brilliant red band across the lower part of each hindwing. In addition to the eye-catching red band, the butterfly has a grey to brown base color with blue highlights towards the outer edges. These butterflies inhabit wooded areas and forest edges, where they feed on nectar from various flowering plants.

One notable characteristic of the Red Banded Hairstreak is its fascinating behavior. When resting on leaves, the butterfly moves its hindwings in a way that resembles an antennae-like motion, creating the illusion of a false head. This clever tactic helps the butterfly confuse predators and protect itself from potential threats.

Red Banded Hairstreak Overview

The Red-banded Hairstreak (scientific name: Calycopis cecrops) is a small butterfly belonging to the family Lycaenidae and genus Calycopis. This butterfly’s wingspan ranges from ¾ to 1 inch (1.9 – 2.5 cm), with distinctive patterns and colors on its wings, including an underwing surface that’s light gray-brown and a red or orange band edged with a thin white line that crosses both hind and forewings1. Here are some key features of the Red-banded Hairstreak:

  • Family: Lycaenidae
  • Genus: Calycopis
  • Scientific name: Calycopis cecrops
  • Order: Lepidoptera
  • Wingspan: ¾ – 1 inch (1.9 – 2.5 cm)

The species name cecrops originated in ancient Greece, referring to a mythical king whose top half resembled a human and the bottom half looked like a fish or reptile2. This name could be related to the butterfly’s appearance, as hairstreaks often seem to have two heads, fooling predators into targeting the outer hindwing edge instead of the butterfly’s actual head3.

Various factors characterize these butterflies, such as:

  • Unique patterns of white, black, and red-orange bands
  • Bold eyespots on wings
  • Small, threadlike hindwing “tails”

Physical Characteristics

Wings and Coloration

The Red Banded Hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops) is a small butterfly with a wingspan of approximately 1-1.5 inches. Their wings have several notable features:

  • Coloration: Predominantly gray-brown with white-edged black bands
  • Hindwings: Unique red-orange band and a row of black eyespots
  • Tails: Two short tails extending from the hindwings, resembling antennae

Example colors on wings:

  • Gray
  • Black
  • White
  • Red-orange
  • Brown

Caterpillars and Eggs

Caterpillars and eggs also exhibit interesting physical attributes:

Caterpillars

  • Length: Short, reaching around 0.5 inches when fully grown
  • Coloration: Brown with orange and black markings
  • Eyespots: Has a row of orange eyespots edged with black

Eggs

  • Color: Bright red-orange hue
  • Size: Tiny, around 0.03 inches in diameter

Comparison Table

Feature Wings Caterpillars Eggs
Color Gray, Black, Red-orange, White, Brown Brown with orange and black markings Red-orange
Distinctive Feature White-edged black bands, red-orange band, eyespots Orange eyespots edged with black Bright hue
Size/Length 1-1.5 inches wingspan 0.5 inches length 0.03 inches diameter

Habitat and Distribution

The Red Banded Hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops) is a small butterfly belonging to the Lycaenidae family. It’s native to North America, where its distribution spans across the Eastern and Southeastern United States.

  • Habitat: These butterflies prefer wooded areas, forest edges, and gardens.
  • Adult: The adult Red Banded Hairstreak has a unique pattern of white, black, and red-orange bands, alongside hindwing “tails” which resemble mock antennae to fool predators.

The distribution of this species varies in different regions of North America.

  • United States: They can be found from New Jersey to Florida, and west to Texas and Oklahoma.
  • Eastern United States: Populations are more abundant in East Coast states.
  • Southeastern United States: The Red Banded Hairstreak is commonly encountered in the Southeast.

In summary, the Red Banded Hairstreak is a fascinating butterfly with a distinctive appearance and a notable distribution across the Eastern and Southeastern United States. Their preferred habitats include wooded areas and gardens, making them an essential part of the North American ecosystem.

Diet and Host Plants

Nectar Sources

Red Banded Hairstreak butterflies feed on nectar from various plants. Some examples of their preferred nectar sources are:

  • White clover
  • Milkweed
  • Lantana

These flowers attract the Red Banded Hairstreak and provide them with essential nutrients.

Caterpillar Host Plants

The caterpillar stage of the Red Banded Hairstreak relies on specific host plants for food and protection, such as:

  • Wax myrtle
  • Sumac
  • Oak

Caterpillars feed on the leaves and foliage of these plants, where they blend in and avoid predation. Below is a comparison table of the two host plants:

Host Plant Wax Myrtle Sumac
Habitat Wetlands Forest
Leaf Shape Narrow Pinnate
Foliage Evergreen Deciduous

These host plants play a vital role in the life cycle of the Red Banded Hairstreak, discussing their preferences and relationship with their selected host plants.

Footnotes

  1. Alabama Butterfly Atlas

  2. Missouri Department of Conservation

  3. Wild Guide: Red-Banded Hairstreak – Missouri Department of Conservation

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 – Red Banded Hairstreak

 

Red Banded Hairstreak
Dear WTB,
I love your site! My husband and I love the photos and appreciate the variety of insects you have. But I noticed today that you don’t seem to have a lot of hairstreaks. Here’s a shot of a red-banded hairstreak in our backyard in Hampton Virginia. I hope you can use it. Thanks for all your efforts.
Sharon

Hi Sharon,
Thanks for contributing to the elimination of the dearth of Hairstreaks on our site by submitting your lovely image of a Red Banded Hairstreak, Calycopsis cecrops.

Letter 2 – Red Banded Hairstreak

 

Red Banded Hairstreak?
Hey bugman,
thanks so much for posting my photo of the wheelbug. I have another one to share with you. I believe this is a red-banded hairstreak (correct me if im wrong). there were two of them nectaring on some goldenrod the other day and i took some pics. I think this was my favorite one. Enjoy and thanks again for a wonderful website.
Mike D.

Hi again Mike,
Your Red Banded Hairstreak photo is awesome. Thanks for adding to our archive.

Letter 3 – Red Banded Hairstreaks

 

Subject: Which “Blue” is this butterfly?
Location: Swarthmore, PA
October 15, 2016 2:24 pm
Hello Bugman,
Am I crazy, or did I just find a pair of Dusky Blue Groundstreaks in PA? A bee came along and startled them before I could really focus well, but the pattern is pretty distinctive. Butterfliesandmoths.org says they range from Venezuela to South Texas, and can stray to Kansas. Unless I’m mistaken these guys are doing some serious exploring.
Signature: Tam Paulits

Red Banded Hairstreaks
Red Banded Hairstreaks

Dear Tam,
Based on images posted to BugGuide, we are going to go with Red Banded Hairstreaks,
Calycopis cecrops, a similar looking species in the same genus as the Dusky Blue Groundstreak.  According to BugGuide:  “Underside of both wings is dark grey with a red band crossing postmedian (i.e., more towards the back edge of the wing than the body). Above, some bright blue is visible in flight.”  BugGuide also notes:  “Eggs are laid on fallen leaves. They feed on detritus and on leaves of plants in the families Fagaceae, Anacardiaceae and Malvaceae. They feed on Mango (Mangifera indica), Brazilian Pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius), Winged Sumac (Rhus copallina), and other trees.”  According to the Butterflies and Moths of North America, the range is:  “Southeastern United States from Long Island south through Florida, west through entire area to southeast Kansas, eastern Oklahoma, and eastern Texas. Strays to eastern Nebraska, northern Illinois, and Michigan.”  We only have two images of Red Banded Hairstreaks in our archive, and both were submitted in 2007.  Because we must be away from the office for several days, we will be post-dating your submission to go live at the end of the week.

Thanks so much!  Proof that I’m an amateur.  Thanks for providing the expert input!
Tam

Authors

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  • 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.

  • 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.

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