Wednesday, June 23, 2010


There are a lot of butterflies out right now, but I’ve noticed that many people focus on the large butterflies and overlook the smaller specimens. Some of the gems of the butterfly world look at a distance to be just dime sized blobs of gray. One of my favorite groups is the hairstreaks. A slow approach will get you in close to these guys and you must be close to get the full effect of their magnificence. This is a Coral Hairstreak, currently the most abundant hairstreak in the air at Blue Jay Barrens. This specimen is sitting on the unopened blooms of a Butterfly Milkweed, Asclepia tuberosa. Butterfly Milkweed is a prime spot to watch for this and many other species of butterflies. Although they are usually easy to get close to, a startled individual will shoot away like it was jet powered.

Edwards’ Hairstreaks are especially abundant this year. Hairstreaks all share the same general facial pattern. Fortunately, the wing patterns allow the different species to be easily sorted out.

This is the Banded Hairstreak. I usually find this butterfly by unintentionally scaring it out of the grass in the prairie openings. Its dark gray color and rapid flight make it look like a piece of shale that’s been flipped into the air. They almost always come to rest on an oak, one of their host plants, in and around the prairie openings.

The tiny Eastern Tailed Blue is often mistaken for a hairstreak. This butterfly is so common that anyone who has ever gone outside during the summer has probably seen one.

From the upper side, you’d think it was an entirely different species. It’s really hard to see from a distance, but close up, the white edging really makes it stand out.

Well, not only have I strayed from the topic of hairstreaks, I’ve jumped from butterflies to skippers. I just had to throw in this picture of the persistent male and the female that just concentrated on sipping milkweed nectar. She eventually drank her fill and the couple buzzed off together.


  1. Hi Steve!! I am jealous..those butterflies a so pretty and those tiny fine hairs on there wings so fine looking ...thus I suppose there name!! ;] Such a variety of them ...I guess I will have to go on a real hunt ...have not still seen to many....Swallowtails a few...1 Morning cloak and some small ones that I don't know what they are but it won't be today ..its raining a pour here!!!

  2. Lovely images and so much information once again. I enjoy walking through the barrens with you and your camera.

  3. Great pictures! Looks like something took a bite out of the Edwards' hairstreak hindwing. I can't remember now, but does the Eastern tailed blue rub its hindwings together like hairstreaks?

  4. Beautiful shots! The other day, I saw an injured butterfly limping along the sidewalk in downtown Nevada City. It was so sad :/

  5. Hi, grammie g. I would think that any butterflies around would swarm to your yard. Maybe they're just slow this year and things will pick up soon.

    Thanks, Lois. You're a very unobtrusive guest. I don't even hear you following behind me.

    Katie - The Edwards' Hairstreak was rubbing its hind wings together and I got the shot when the near wing was up. Seeing the far wing is what makes it look like a bite. The Eastern Tailed Blue does the same scissor motion with its hind wings.

    Thanks, Green Gal. When I was in 5th grade, I found an injured Black Swallowtail on the playground and took it back to class with me. I was trying to keep it safe so I could take it home and try to rehabilitate it, but other kids noticed and started a fuss, so I and the butterfly got sent to the office. The principal was very understanding and put the butterfly into a small box that he kept and I picked up on my way home. The butterfly lived for several days between my window and the screen, drinking sugar water and flapping its hopelessly battered wings.