Hairstreak Butterflies (Theclinae)
|family Lycaenidae: Hairstreaks
Callophrys: Elfins and Greens
Strymon: Gray Hairstreak
Types of Butterflies
Hairstreaks, the subfamily (Theclinae) of butterflies in the Lycaenidae family, are generally, but not always identified by the small protruding hair at the bottom of the tail.
Most of the one hundred or so hairstreak species live in a geographically limited range. The Gray Hairstreak is an exception to that rule, with a range extending throughout most of the United States.
Hairstreaks divide into around a dozen different genera, with approximately two-thirds of the species belonging to one of three genera:
- Callophrys - The genus consists of all the elfins (small, brown, generally tailless or small tailed species) plus a handful of primarily Western hairstreaks. The Juniper Hairstreak and Brown Elfin are good examples of genus members with a continental range.
- Satyrium - Satyrium species also have geographically limited ranges, however individual species are found from coast to coast. The Behr's, California and Hedgerow Hairstreaks are examples.
- Strymon - Members of the genus often sit with open wings, and most are Southern or Southwestern species. Examples of the genus are the Gray, Lantana, Mallow and Red-Crescent Scrub-streaks.
Field identification of hairstreaks often can be straight forward using the patterns on the underside of the wings as the basic identification clues. Most species are relatively small, the size of a penny or nickle when the wings are folded, so getting a large, accurate picture might be the most difficult identification task.
Species diversity means they can be discovered from sea level to mountain areas in fields, forests and backyards.
The Golden Hairstreak (Habrodais grunus), top picture, represents the Habrodais genus for North America.
Its range is primarily limited to woodland areas of Oregon, Washington and California that support species of oak, the larval food.
The relatively plain gold wings and shorter than average tail make it easy to identify. Picture two highlights the dark border on the top of the wings.
The Dusky-blue Groundstreak (Calycopis isobeon), picture three, one of two native calycopis species, inhabits forest areas in the subtropical Americas from Venezuela in the South, to South Texas in the north.
Occasionally southern Arizona hosts a few visitors.
The picture highlights the insect's dark orange markings, especially on the hindwing. The sky blue spot on the hindwing, directly under the second pair of tails adds another bit of flash.
Caterpillars feed on various forest floor leaves and adults nectar on flowers. They fly almost year round.
The Clytie Ministreak (Ministrymon clytie), one of three native North American Ministrymon, inhabit areas of the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas and Southern Arizona.
The double tail and orange striped pattern on the underside of the wings are good field identification clues.
© 2008-2011 Patricia A. Michaels