Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus [Hübner])
Wing span: 7/8 - 1 3/8 inches (2.2 - 3.5 cm).
Identification: One tail on hindwing. Upperside blue-gray with large red spot near tail. Underside of spring/fall form is dark gray, summer form is paler gray. Relatively straight postmedian line is white, bordered with orange on the inside edge.
Life history: 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. Chrysalids hibernate.
Flight: Two flights from May-September in the north, three-four flights from February-November in the south.
Caterpillar hosts: Flowers and fruits from an almost endless variety of 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.
Habitat: Open, nonforested sites; common in disturbed, weedy areas.
Range: Throughout continental United States from southern Canada south to Mexico; southward to Venezuela.
Comments: The most widespread hairstreak in North America.
Conservation: Not usually required.
The Nature Conservancy Global Rank: G5 - Demonstrably secure globally, though it may be quite rare in parts of its range, especially at the periphery.
Management needs: Caterpillars may cause economic damage to bean and cotton crops.
Opler, P. A. and G. O. Krizek. 1984. Butterflies east of the Great Plains. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 294 pages, 54 color plates. Opler, P. A. and V. Malikul. 1992. A field guide to eastern butterflies. Peterson field guide #4. Houghton-Mifflin Co., Boston. 396 pages, 48 color plates. Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, Stanford, Calif. 583 pages, 64 color plates. Tilden, J. W. 1986. A field guide to western butterflies. Houghton-Mifflin Co., Boston, Mass. 370 pages, 23 color plates.
Author: Jane M. Struttmann
State and Regional References:
Opler, P.A. 1998. A field guide to eastern butterflies, revised format. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston.