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unusual cat - Strymon melinus

unusual cat - Strymon melinus
Newport News, Tidewater County, Virginia, USA
September 25, 2005
Size: 1/4" to 1/2"
This cat is feeding on a hyacinth bean pod, mostly the seeds. Accompanied by tiny ants which eat what it expels. Could it be a glaucopsyche lygdamus? They haven't been confirmed here in decades....


I agree: Strymon melinus
Gray Hairstreak - Strymon melinus. Strymon have simple, long, hairlike setae that give them a soft look, while blues have short and granular setae - the differing setae give the caterpillars a very different 'feel' that can be seen even in small or blurry images. Further, this guy is consistent with Gray hairstreak in pattern and body shape as well.

Thanks, Sam
you seem to be very familiar with caterpillars - would you mind filling out your bio page a little more, so we know where your expertise comes from?

Your images are great (from the pbase link you gave) - do you raise a lot of the caterpillars you photograph?

Gray hairstreak, possibly?
Definitely a hairstreak or blue, judging by the shape and the ants tending it. Gray Hairstreak is supposed to feed on flower buds of various legumes, but it's not a huge step from there to beanpods (I found one reference that said it does feed on pods). There are other hairstreaks and blues that go for legumes, but this resembles the picture of Gray Hairstreak in Florida's Butterfly Caterpillars.(1) On the other hand, ants are not mentioned for this species. Frosted Elfin also feeds on legumes in VA. Don't know about ants for that either.
If you still have it you might try raising it - just in case it does turn out to be Silvery Blue!

Yes, hairstreak or blue
Thanks Hannah, your post offset the disappointment I felt with my cooperative extension. They said it was a skiff cat - and I'm totally puzzled as to how they got there. I did some more research, and found a reference to ants with the gray hairstreaks. Some of them should have cycled into butterflies by now; I'll watch more closely...

My guide to cats mentions that ants are found with blues, but makes no mention of them being found with hairstreaks. Does that mean they are not found with Hairstreaks?

I don't have an exact list of all species that do this,
but Minno (1) says it's "some hairstreaks and blues" and specifically mentions Spring Azure, Miami Blue and Eastern Pygmy Blue. I'm sure there are more than just these three.
Scott (2) says it's "older larvae and sometimes pupae of both subfamilies of Lycaenidae*" but only specifically mentions the Mexican Blue. *He divides Lycaenidae into two subfamilies - Lycaeninae including Hairstreaks, Coppers and Blues, and Riodininae, Metalmarks.

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