Thursday, April 28, 2011

Edwards' Hairstreak Larvae

I visited some small oaks in hopes of discovering eggs of the Edwards’ Hairstreak butterfly and found a newly hatched larva instead.

With my hand in the background, you get a little better idea of the size of this newly hatched caterpillar. What I found odd was the absence of any Allegheny Mound Ants attending this little guy. Maybe they’ll be along soon.

Not much growth on these small oaks to feed a newly hatched caterpillar. The tree in the center hosted the larva, but the buds hardly looked as though they were beginning to swell.

On a second tree, I found more larvae along with their ant protectors. The larvae are busily feeding on the bud. They’ll be adults by mid-June, so their development should proceed at a fairly rapid pace.

The ants will guard the larvae and resulting pupae up to the point of adulthood. During the early stages of development, the larvae will spend most of their time on or next to the buds. At some later instar, the ants are supposed to escort the larvae to a protected area at the base of the tree for safety during daylight hours and then take them back up the tree to feed during the night. I have yet to witness this activity, but I’m going to try hard to catch it this year.

The tree doesn’t look like much, but its existence is essential for the survival of the Edwards’ Hairstreaks living in this small prairie opening. Click on Edwards’ Hairstreak from the list in the sidebar for more information on this interesting butterfly.


  1. ...really interesting about the ant protectors, Steve. I'm going to click the link next to read more about it.

  2. Hi, Kelly. Ants are always fascinating.