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

Updated: 01/04/2022; 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 tops (dorsal) 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 Size Between 25mm (1.0in) and 32mm (1.3in)
Lo: 25mm
Md: 28.5mm
Hi: 32mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Canadian territory of Alberta graphic
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
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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