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Gray Hairstreak - Strymon melinus - male

Gray Hairstreak - Strymon melinus - Male
Los Gatos, Santa Clara County, California, USA
September 27, 2008
Size: 25-30 mm
Oka Ponds, Los Gatos, a hairstreak nectaring on Bidens sp (Beggarticks, a yellow composite); at intervals it flew to nearby smartweed (Persica persica) for brief periods to rest, but did not feed on that plant. Possible genus call: Satyrium; lacks the blue patch and oval black spots on underwings of S. californica, but could be a ssp.

I am submitting two shots that show essential details of head and tail pattern. The detail of the tail shows a surprising amount of dimension -- this area is definitely not flat. Also hope an expert can advise gender.

It is probably well known that some tailed hairstreaks constantly slide their hind wings back and forth while feeding; this motion causes the tails to wobble which creates, from behind, the impression of a larger insect. I wonder if this is an example of Batesian mimicry. In the Great Purple Hairstreak the effect, seen through a macro lens, can be stunning: it looks like a large purple-black cricket marching at you with antennae wobbling. This effect might cause a potential predator (eg, fence lizard) to strike at the tails, perhaps giving the butterfly a slight extra chance to live another day.

Images of this individual: tag all
Gray Hairstreak - Strymon melinus - male Gray Hairstreak - Strymon melinus - male

Moved from Butterflies.

Flight times...
I am not an expert, but I think you can safely move these images to the Gray Hairstreak page. While I don't know enough to reliably separate S. melinus from S. californica based on wing markings, I do know that the flight time listed for S. californica is May - August. (See reference at Butterflies & Moths of North America -- a great resource, BTW!) I also checked the few print references I have (1, 2) and they also seem to concur that the late September date of your specimen points rather strongly to it being S. melinus.

(Hopefully, some helpful editor will read this post and add the flight time information to the info page for S. californica, as there is currently no data listed there.)

Gray Hairstreak
I'm pretty sure this is a gray hairstreak (strymon melinus). Great photo.

It does look like Calycopis cecrops...
but that is an eastern species, not recorded, to my knowledge, west of the Rockies. Don't believe we have any Calycopis sp in CA.

Ooops, you are correct. It looks so similar to the Red-banded hairstreaks we have here on the East Coast, I (wrongly) assumed that is what it was. You can always look through the various species listed on bugguide, or wait for an expert opinion. Sorry!

Red-banded Hairstreak
It looks like a Red-banded Hairstreak - Calycopis cecrops, to me. I too have watched as they move their tails up and down, it's pretty amazing!

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