Saturday, March 31, 2012

Looking for Henry's Elfin - Finding Olive Hairstreak

I was looking for something and I found something, so I guess I was somewhat successful.  My search was for an uncommon small brown butterfly known as Henry’s Elfin.  Henry’s Elfin lays its eggs among the blooms of the Redbud, so the best time to see them is at the peak of the Redbud blooming season which happens to be right now.  I managed to see several small butterflies on the Redbud flowers, but they were all Olive Hairstreaks as shown in the photo.  Olive Hairstreaks are also an uncommon species, so even though they weren’t my desired find, I was happy to see them.

Several factors increased the difficulty of my search.  One was the sheer volume of Redbud blooms.  Every branch of every Redbud tree is crowded with flowers, so the butterflies could be anywhere.  This abundance may result in a larger than average Henry’s Elfin population next year. 

Most of that profusion of Redbud blooms is above my head.  I’ve seen several small butterflies moving in the tree tops.  Unfortunately, I can’t confirm any of those as being Henry’s Elfin.  The Olive Hairstreak may display some bright colors on its lower wing surface, but the upper surface is brown.  In flight, especially when viewed against a bright sky, the Olive Hairstreak looks brown, so I may have been seeing more of that species.

Butterflies were far outnumbered by foraging Bumblebees.  It’s easy for a small butterfly to go unnoticed among the ever moving Bumblebee traffic.

The other consideration is the fact that I’ve never before seen a Henry’s Elfin adult on a Redbud.  I know adults have been there, because I’ve found larvae on Redbuds.  Every Henry’s Elfin I’ve ever found has been resting on the dead stalks of tall Prairie Grasses. In an effort to help the Henry’s Elfin population, I favor Redbuds in my management efforts and maintain that tree in large sections of the field edges.

I can’t help thinking that there’s some connection between the Henry’s Elfin and the Xeric Limestone Prairie found at Blue Jay Barrens.  For that reason, I maintain some Redbuds out in the Indian Grass fields.  I don’t know if that helps, but the Henry’s Elfins are very plentiful in some years.

I’ll keep looking for the Henry’s Elfin.  It may be that they have not yet emerged.  In the mean time, I’ll enjoy the Olive Hairstreaks.  If you believe my search is doomed to failure, you can go back to an earlier post to get a look at a Henry’s Elfin.


  1. If you've found it once, surely you'll come across it again. Nice post:)

  2. Hi Steve...That first picture is of a tree in bloom and the the butterfly find ...NICE!!
    Good luck finding Henry!! ; }

  3. Thanks Mona. The Henry's Elfins are here every year, but some years I fail to see any at all.

    Hi Grace. This has been a great year for blooming trees and shrubs. Just about everything I look at has a backdrop of flowers.