Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 1 to 1 1/4 inches (2.5-3.2 cm). Light gray with black and white line across both wings.  The hindwing has a red-capped black spot and blue scaling above the tails.  Upper surfaces are gray with a red-capped black spot above the tail.  Top of head and tip of antennae are orange. Male abdomen is orange; female abdomen is gray. Females tend to be larger.

ID Tip: True gray—not gray-brown.  The color is important.

Egg: Light green, laid singly; often on or near flower buds of host.

Caterpillar: Although generally some shade of green, color varies according to host plant hue.

Chrysalis: Dark brown. The over-wintering stage.

Gray Hairstreaks are the most commonly encountered hairstreaks in Alabama and will eventually be documented in every county in the state. In fact, Gray Hairstreaks are so widespread that it is easy to become complacent about their striking beauty.  The crisp clear gray of this butterfly sparkles!

Gray Hairstreaks are consummate habitat generalists, requiring little more than plants and sunlight.  Their caterpillars have adapted to eat from more than 30 plant families, although legumes and mallows are most frequently chosen. As common and widespread as these butterflies are, they are seldom seen in large numbers. Most field trip lists record one or two. 

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: Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Bibb, Bullock, Butler, Chambers , Cherokee, Chilton, Cleburne, Coffee, Colbert, Coosa, Covington, Crenshaw, Cullman, Dallas, DeKalb, Elmore, Escambia, Etowah, Fayette, Franklin, Hale, Henry, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Lawrence, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Madison, Marengo, Marion, Marshall, Mobile, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Randolph, Shelby, St. Clair, Sumter, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Walker, Wilcox, Winston

  • 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
3 2 2 2 13 1 36 3 23 7 4 3 15 22 33 12 27 26 28 46 28 48 38 30 53 24 31 2 1 3

Habitat

Extremely widespread

Host and Nectar Plants

Food plants represent more than 30 plant families, but the Pea family (Fabaceae) may be most common. 

These plants have been verified in Alabama: Common Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata), Hogwort/Wooly Croton (Croton capitatus), White Clover (Trifolium reptans), Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus), Downy Milk Pea (Galactia volubilis), Curly Dock (Rumex crispus).

 

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

Landscaping Ideas

Gray Hairstreaks are among the butterflies that benefit from including Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata) in the landscape.  They nectar from a variety of small flowers including milkweeds (Asclepias spp.), mountain mints (Pycnanthem spp.) and goldenrods (Solidago spp.), all wonderful landscape plants that benefit many butterfly species.