Butterfly: Wingspan: 7/8 to 1 inch (22-25 mm). Varying amounts of olive green scaling are on underwing surfaces. There are two short hindwing tails. There is a band of slightly offset white spots and a single white cell spot; the hindwing has two small white bars toward the base and an irregular white band across the middle.
ID TIp: Green. Top white spot on ventral forewing band is offset outwardly. Single white forewing cell spot.
Egg: Pale green, flattened discs are laid singly on host plant
Caterpillar: Green with creamy line that extends from head to tail on top. Closely spaced white dashes are on either side of line. This pattern enables Hessel's Hairstreak caterpillars to resemble the scaly foliage of Atlantic White Cedar.
Chrysalis: Dark brown and pellet-shaped. It is the overwintering stage.
Hessel’s Hairstreaks were not documented in Alabama until 2010 when Sara Bright and Paulette Ogard discovered them near Seminole and at what is now called the Perdido River Nature Preserve. The scarcity of Hessel’s Hairstreaks comes as no surprise since they absolutely require Atlantic White Cedars, and Atlantic White Cedar habitat has all but vanished in our state. These trees were known from four counties in Alabama but have all but disappeared in most. Their lightweight, rot-resistant wood made them an eagerly sought commodity in the past two centuries, and they were harvested almost out of existence. Fortunately, the Perdido River Nature Preserve, a Nature Conservancy holding in Baldwin County, has pristine Atlantic White Cedar habitat and supports a healthy population of Hessel's Hairstreaks.
Males perch on the tops of the tallest trees and dart out to investigate anything that moves. After mating has occurred, females sit lower in trees, away from marauding males. Eggs are deposited on lower branches and/or small trees.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sightings in the following counties: Baldwin
Atlantic White Cedar wetlands
Atlantic White Cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) is the only know host and has been verified in Alabama.
Nectaring observations are scarce. Currently, Alabama's populations are known to nectar at Black Titi (Cliftonia monophylla), a prevalent spring-blooming shrub that often grows at the base of the cedars. More observations are needed to determine what nectar sources these rare butterflies use throughout the seasons.
For more information about the documented host plants and/or nectar plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the following links: