Gray Hairstreak

(Strymon melinus)

Gray Hairstreaks are often overlooked because of its small size, this hairstreak is a common butterfly of weedy, disturbed locations.

Habitat, open deciduous woods, coastlines, roadsides, chaparral, old fields, parks, vacant lots, and other open spaces.

It flies fast and erratic, and visits flowers frequently.

Especially fond of composites, the hairstreak prefers a stable platform on which to land and easy access to the nectar in numerous short-tubed flowers like the disk florets in composite flower heads.


Gray Hairstreak

The Gray hairstreak's wings below are light gray with two rows of black spots outlined in white.

The upper wing surfaces are dark gray with a white fringe. Each hindwing bears a large bright orange patch and two hair-like tails.

The sexes are similar, but females have wider and more rounded forewings.

Description:

7/8-1 1/4" (2.2 - 3.5 cm). Upperside blue-gray with large red or orange spot on hindwing ; female browner.

Below, dove-gray; straight, thin frontwing and hindwing red and black midband lined with white; bold orange and blue patches above tail, black spot at HW outer angle (tornus).

Abdomen has orange sides.

Similar Species Avalon Hairstreak sandy-buff below with reduced bands and orange. Other similar hairstreaks are browner or lack bright orange spot above.

Habitat:

Open, non forested sites; common in disturbed, weedy areas.

Range:

The Gray hairstreak are the most widespread hairstreak in North America can be found in southern Canada from British Columbia to Maritimes, throughout the continental United States and south into Mexico all the way to Venezuela.

Flight:

Two flights from May-September in the north, three-four flights from February-November in the south.

Flight Variable, number of broods increasing southward: 2 in North, 3 or more in South; April-October.

Gray Hairstreak

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. Chrysalids hibernate.

The small green eggs are laid singly on the buds and flowers of some often boring into them. They are sometimes agricultural pests

The caterpillar is known regionally as the "cotton square borer," and has upon occasion damaged commercial bean, hops, and cotton crops.

Older larvae may feed on host plant leaves.

Caterpillars variable, usually grass-green to translucent green, with white to mauve diagonal side stripes; various host plants are nearly 200 different species in many different families. The young larvae feed on flowers and developing fruit,

gray hairstreak larvae

Host plants for the hairstreak include corn (Zea mays), oak (Quercus), cotton (Gossypium), strawberry (Fragaria), and mint (Lamiacea), legumes and mallows preferred. Chrysalis brown with copious black mottling.

The mature caterpillar is extremely variable but is usually unmarked reddish brown or green and covered with short hairs.

It has a very small head. The pupa is light brown with numerous dark spots.

Gray Hairstreak and other Common Butterflies

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