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Gray Hairstreak Butterfly (Strymon melinus)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Gray Hairstreak Butterfly



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Image Credit: Arch Baker
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The small Gray Hairstreak Butterfly can be found all over the continent, flitting and flying in dizzying patterns.



Updated: 10/05/2020; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Adult Gray Hairstreak Butterflies can be seen in open fields, parks, woods and gardens in every state and province. When resting, they bask in the sun with their wings stretched open, a behavior that is uncharacteristic in other Hairstreaks. When in flight, they are fast, using an array of flight maneuvers that make it difficult visually track. This is probably helpful in avoiding an airborne attack.

Adults are a light gray with a thin, short tail at the bottom of each hindwing. A crisp black/white line stretches down the inside of each forewing. A secondary row of black dashes runs closer to the edge and ends in a splash of orange at the bottom. Each orange patch has a black dot and is visible on top and underneath the wings. The hair-like fringe extending from the bottom of the hindwings also has orange patches with black inside them. The top (dorsal) side of the wings are almost completely gray save for the orange/black pattern and white dashes between them.

The caterpillar of the Gray Hairstreak feeds on the flowers of legumes and member of the hibiscus plant family. This makes it an annoying pest to bean farmers and ornamental flower growers. The butterfly can adapt its coloring (to a certain degree) and camouflage itself on the plant it is feeding on. Two to three generations are born in a year which likely aids in their prevalence. They are most active from late spring to early autumn.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Harmful insect icon




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Lycaenidae
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          Genus: Strymon
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            Species: melinus
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Strymon melinus
Other Name(s): Common Hairstreak Butterfly
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 25mm to 32mm (0.98" to 1.25")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: gray; black; orange; white; blue
Descriptors: flying, harmful
Relative Size Comparison
Typical Range Between 25mm and 32mm
Lo: 25mm
Md: 28.5mm
Hi: 32mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
State of Alabama graphic
State of Arizona graphic
State of Arkansas graphic
State of California graphic
State of Colorado graphic
State of Delware graphic
State of Florida graphic
State of Georgia graphic
State of Idaho graphic
State of Illinois graphic
State of Indiana graphic
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State of Kansas graphic
State of Kentucky graphic
State of Louisiana graphic
State of Maine graphic
State of Maryland graphic
State of Michigan graphic
State of Minnesota graphic
State of Mississippi graphic
State of Missouri graphic
State of Montana graphic
State of Nebraska graphic
State of Nevada graphic
State of New England graphic
State of New Jersey graphic
State of New Mexico graphic
State of New York graphic
State of North Carolina graphic
State of North Dakota graphic
State of Ohio graphic
State of Oklahoma graphic
State of Oregon graphic
State of Pennsylvania graphic
State of South Carolina graphic
State of South Dakota graphic
State of Tennessee graphic
State of Texas graphic
State of Utah graphic
State of Virginia graphic
State of Washington graphic
State of West Virginia graphic
State of Wisconsin graphic
State of Wyoming graphic
Canadian territory of Alberta graphic
Canadian territory of British Columbia graphic
Canadian territory of Manitoba graphic
Canadian territory of New Brunswick graphic
Canadian territory of Newfoundland and Labrador graphic
Canadian territory of Ontario graphic
Canadian territory of Quebec graphic
Canadian territory of Saskatchewan graphic
Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Gray Hairstreak Butterfly may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Gray Hairstreak Butterfly. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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