Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 7/8 to11/4 inches (2.2-3.2 cm).  The underside is light brown with a row of orange spots along the outer hindwing edge black; also a row of black dots is ringed in white across both hind and forewings. There are no tails. On the upperwing, Coral Hairstreaks are dark brown. Males have a scent patch near the forewing margin. Females have a variable row of orange spots.Upperside is rarely seen.

ID Tip: No tails.  Orange spots along outer margins of ventral hindwing.  No blue spots.

Egg: Flattened white discs, often deposited at the base of trees. Eggs are the overwintering stage.

Caterpillar: The body is basically green. Both head and tail are suffused with red, which enables the caterpillar to blend with Black Cherry leaves and stems that are also suffused with red. Caterpillars eat at night, spending the day near at the base of the host tree. At dusk they crawl up the tree (often a sapling) to feed.  They are typically tended by ants, which are attracted and rewarded by the caterpillars’ sugary secretions.

Chrysalis: Brown, flecked with black and covered with very short hairs.

Like all hairstreaks in the satyrium genus, Coral Hairstreaks produce only one brood per year.  They are the sole tail-less species within this group. Males engage in typical hairstreak perching behavior, aggressively darting out to search for females and then returning to the same spot.

Butterfly Milkweed is a nectar magnet for Coral Hairstreaks, and their flight typically coincides with its first bloom time.  One of the best ways to search for Coral Hairstreaks is to locate patches of orange milkweed flowers along deciduous woodland edges.

To date, Coral Hairstreaks have only been documented to use Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) as their host plant. Their caterpillars are suffused with red which enables them to blend with Black Cherry leaves and stem that are also suffused with red. Caterpillars eat at night, spending the day near at the base of the host tree. At dusk they crawl up the tree (often a sapling) to feed.  They are typically tended by ants, which are attracted and rewarded by the caterpillars’ sugary secretions.

Distribution and Abundance

A dot on the county map indicates that there is at least one documented record of the species within that county. In some cases, a species may be common throughout the county, in others it may be found in only a specific habitat.

The sightings bar graphs depict the timing of flight(s) within each of three geographic regions. Place your cursor on a bar within the graph to see the number of individuals recorded during that period.

The abundance calendar displays the total number of individuals recorded within each week of the month. Both the graphs and the calendar are on based data collection that began in 2000.

The records analyzed here are only a beginning. As more data is collected, these maps and graphs will paint a more accurate picture of distribution and abundance in Alabama. Submit your sightings to albutterflyatlas@gmail.com.

Sightings in the following counties: Bibb, Clay, Cleburne, Colbert, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Marshall, Shelby

  • Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Sightings more than 10 years ago
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
17 14 34 12 1 2

Habitat

Openings near woodland edges.  Second growth and shrubby open areas. Seldom in deep forests.

Host and Nectar Plants

A variety of cherries and wild plums (Prunus spp.) have been reported.

This host plant has been verified in Alabama: Black Cherry (Prunus serotina).

Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) is an important nectar plant for this species.

 

For more information about the documented host plants and/or nectar plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the following links:

Landscaping Ideas

If Coral Hairstreaks are in the vicinity, they will be drawn to plantings of Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa).

Including Black Cherry trees in the landscape may provide host sites for these hairstreaks as well as Red Spotted Purples.  Small trees and /or saplings are often chosen.