Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly:  Wingspan 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches (3.2-3.8 cm).  Largest of Alabama’s hairstreaks. Males are deep metallic blue on the upperside with black wing borders and a black stigma in the forewing.  Females are paler with broader black wing borders.  Both sexes are double-tailed, although females tails are longer.  The underside is black; males have a metallic blue dash in the forewing which females lack.  There is a mixture of metallic blue, bronze, and purple patches in the lower hindwing. The abdomen is bright orange.

ID Tip: Thorax has white spots.  Abdomen is bright orange

Egg: Green discs, laid singly on mistletoe.

Caterpillar: Green with short hairs, often laterally striped with yellow .  A white diamond spot occurs behind the head.

Chrysalis: Brown, mottled with black and covered with short hairs. Typically placed at base of tree, in crevices or under loose bark. The overwintering stage.

Great Purple Hairstreaks spend much of their time in the treetops, where males perch and search for females, and females place single eggs within clusters of mistletoe.  Slug-shaped larvae eat flowers and foliage.  Mature caterpillars descend trees to form coffee bean-shaped chrysalides under scaly bark or in leaf littler near the base of the tree.

Great Purple Hairstreaks presumably gain some chemical protection from the toxic mistletoe their caterpillars eat. Their orange and black aposematic (warning) coloration appears to advertise that they are unpalatable. However, they also engage in wing rubbing behavior that draws attention to the "false head" markings on their hindwings.   Caterpillars are not protectively colored, closely mimicking mistletoe leaves with their thickly rounded shapes and green coloration.

 

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, Bibb, Chambers , Chilton, Dallas, DeKalb, Jackson, Jefferson, Lee, Marshall, Mobile, Pickens, Shelby

  • Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Sightings more than 10 years ago
County Distribution Map

View county names by moving the mouse over a county or view a map with county names

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1 3 2 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 2 2 1 4 6 2 1 2 2 1

Habitat

Near woodlands and woodland edges that contain mistletoe-infected trees and adequate nectar sources.

Host and Nectar Plants

American Mistletoe (Phoradendron leucarpum) is the only known host plant and has been verified in Alabama

Great Purple Hairstreaks visit many flower species for nectar.  

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

Landscaping Ideas

Leaving Mistletoe in effected trees may enable Great Purple Hairstreaks to find suitable spots for egg laying.  They are also attracted to nectar-rich flowers, especially in the fall. A landscape that Includes plants like wild plums, sweet pepperbush, Climbing Hempvine, Butterfly Milkweed, Mistflower, goldenrods, asters, and Common White Snakeroot may entice Great Purple Hairsteaks to come down from the tree tops.