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White M Hairstreak Butterfly (Parrhasius m-album)

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

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Image Credit: Mark H. from Corry, PA
Full-sized image of the White-M-Hairstreak-Butterfly Thumbnail image of the White-M-Hairstreak-Butterfly

A peek at the royal blue tops of the wings on a White M Hairstreak is quite rare for this common butterfly in southern states.

Updated: 01/06/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
This butterfly is most often seen with its wings raised up, allowing it to hide its bright blue and black topside from view. People are really only able to glimpse that gorgeous color when it is flying, and that glimpse is fleeting. Very rarely, it is found with its wings open flat, and even rarer is the chance that someone is camera-ready to capture the moment. We are grateful to Mark for sharing this image with us. The more commonly seen colors on the White M Hairstreak better explain its common name. Underneath, the wings are pale brown-gray. On the hindwing, one thin white line crosses the wing and zigzags into the shape of an ?M? or a ?W? depending on how you see it. A faint line closer to the edge has a bold red-orange dot on it near the bottom. The forewing has a similar pattern but without the red dot. Short tails extend from the hindwings.

Adults are often found in the proximity of oak trees, the food plant for caterpillars. Caterpillars are green or light brown, or a transitional mix of both colors. The shape is more like a slug or pill bug: plump and humped. Up to three broods are possible in one year, especially in the southern states. Like other butterflies, adults take nectar from flowers from spring through autumn.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Patterned insect icon
Striped or banded insect icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Lycaenidae
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          Genus: Parrhasius
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            Species: m-album

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Parrhasius m-album
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 30mm to 40mm (1.18" to 1.57")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: blue; black; tan; white; orange; red
Descriptors: thin white lines; white M or W line underneath; orange-red spot; bright blue; royal; cobalt; black borders; short tails; flying

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 30mm (1.2in) and 40mm (1.6in)
Lo: 30mm
Md: 35mm
Hi: 40mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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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 White M 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 White M Hairstreak Butterfly. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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