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Gray Hairstreak
Strymon melinus

Small butterfly with a wingspan up to 1-3/8 inches. There is a red-topped black spot on both the upperside and the underside of the hindwing. The upperside is blue-gray. The underside of the spring/fall form is dark gray; the underside of the summer form is paler gray with a straight white line bordered with orange on the inside edge. There is one tail on each hindwing. The slug-shaped caterpillar has a brown head and short, bristly hairs. Its color can range from green to green with red stripes, to all-red with faint dark markings; pink and brown forms also may occur. The chrysalis is light brown with dark brown markings.
Widespread in North America, Mexico, Central America and South America.
Distribution and Abundance in Florida:
Common in most parts of Florida from March to November; common all year in South Florida. Caterpillars are present all year in South Florida and from February through early November in the rest of Florida.
Uplands and open, disturbed sites.
Three or more broods per year. The flat, whitish or green eggs are laid singly on the flower buds of the host plants.
Natural History:
Adults often perch with wings partially open. Males perch on small trees and shrubs in the afternoon, waiting for females.
Caterpillars feed on the flower buds and immature seeds of host plants in more than 20 plant families, especially those of the Fabaceae (pea family) and Malvaceae (mallow family). Native larval host plants include the cultivated shrub wild cotton (Gossypium hirsutum), the wildflowers eastern milkpea (Galactia regularis), turkey tangle fog fruit (Phyla nodiflora) and partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata), and the vines balloonvine (Cardiospermum halicacabum var. microcarpum), coinvine (Dalbergia ecastaphyllum) and downy milkpea (Galactia volubilis). Other native host plants are the wildflowers bladdermallow (Herissantia crispa), cottonweed (Froelichia floridana), panicledleaf ticktrefoil (Desmodium paniculatum) and skyblue lupine (Lupinus diffusus) and the vine cow-pea (Vigna luteola). Weedy native host plants include beggar's-ticks (Desmodium incanum) and common wireweed (Sida acuta). Native nectar plants include the cultivated wildflowers rosy camphorweed (Pluchea baccharis), scorpionstail (Heliotropium angiospermum) and snow squarestem (Melanthera nivea). Weedy native nectar plants include Spanish-needles (Bidens alba var. radiata). Larvae also feed on the nonnative weed wild-bean (Macroptilium lathyroides) and the cultivated kidney bean (Phaseolus vulgaris).
This is the most common hairstreak in North America. It can become a pest on bean and cotton crops. For more information, visit the Florida Museum of Natural History's Florida Wildflowers & Butterflies website and Butterflies and Moths of North America.


Beryn Harty
Beryn Harty
Beryn Harty, 2011