Gray Hairstreak Butterfly
Taxonomic Hierarchy Photo
Kingdom: Animalia -- animal
Phylum: Arthropoda -- arthropods
      Subphylum: Hexapoda -- hexapods
Class: hexapoda -- insects


Pterygota -- iwinged insects
           Infraclass: Neoptera -- modern, wing-folding insects
Order: Lepidoptera -- butterflies, moths
Superfamily: Papilionoidea -- butterflies
      Family: Lycaenidae -- Gossamer Winged Butterflies
           Subfamily: Theclinae -- Hairstreaks
Genus: Strymon
Species: Strymon melinus
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United States Range Map


California Range Map

Adult Sexes Similar

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Identification:   Life history:
One tail on hindwing. Upperside blue-gray with large red spot near tail. Underside of spring/fall form is dark gray, summer form is paler gray. Relatively straight postmedian line is white, bordered with orange on the inside edge.   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; older ones may eat leaves. Chrysalids hibernate.
Flight:   Wing Span:
Two flights from May-September in the north, three-four flights from February-November in the south.   7/8 - 1 3/8 inches (2.2 - 3.5 cm).

Caterpillar Hosts:

  Adult Food:
Flowers and fruits from an almost endless variety of plants; most often from pea (Fabaceae) and mallow (Malvaceae) families including beans (Phaseolus), clovers (Trifolium), cotton (Gossypium), and mallow (Malva).   Nectar from many flower species including dogbane, milkweed, mint, winter cress, goldenrod, tick trefoil, and white sweet clover.
Habitat:   Season:
Open, nonforested sites; common in disturbed, weedy areas.   Two flights from May-September in the north, three-four flights from February-November in the south.
Remarks:   Conservation:
The most widespread hairstreak in North America.   Conservation: Not usually required.

NatureServe Global Status: G5 - Demonstrably secure globally, though it may be quite rare in parts of its range, especially at the periphery.

Management needs: Caterpillars may cause economic damage to bean and cotton crops.

Sources used to Construct this Page:  

Additional Photos

Adult Sexes Similar

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All photos 2008 Rick Swartzentrover - Free for non-profit use.

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Global ranks indicate the rarity of a species at a global scale. Species may be fairly common globally but imperiled locally. Global ranks have the following meaning:

  • G1 - Critically Imperiled - At very high risk of extinction due to extreme rarity (often 5 or fewer populations), very steep declines, or other factors.
  • G2 - Imperiled - At high risk of extinction due to very restricted range, very few populations (often 20 or fewer), steep declines, or other factors.
  • G3 - Vulnerable - At moderate risk of extinction due to a restricted range, relatively few populations (often 80 or fewer), recent and widespread declines, or other factors.
  • G4 - Apparently Secure - Uncommon but not rare; some cause for long-term concern due to declines or other factors.
  • G5 - Secure - Common; widespread and abundant.
  • * ? or Q = status unknown or uncertain