Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 1 - 1¼ inches (2.5 - 3.2 cm) UPPER SURFACE (dorsal) Male gray; female blue gray. Orange-capped black spot on hindwing.  UNDER SURFACE (ventral) Light gray; black and white line across both wings. Hindwing with orange-capped black spot and blue scaling above tails. Top of head and tip of antennae orange. Male abdomen orange; female abdomen blue gray.

ID Tip: True gray (under surface)—not gray brown. The color is important.

Egg: Greenish white, dimpled. Disc shaped. Laid singly, often on or near flower buds of host.

Caterpillar: Although generally some shade of green, color varies according to host plant hue. Slug shaped. Covered with short hairs. Head brown.

Chrysalis: Mottled brown or green with dark speckles. Bean shaped. The over-wintering stage.

 

Gray Hairstreaks so widespread and common that it is easy to become complacent about their striking beauty. The crisp clear gray of this butterfly sparkles!

Consummate habitat generalists, Gray Hairstreaks. require little more than plants and sunlight. They are members of the 'scrub-hairstreak" group, and like most scrub-hairstreaks, they bask with open wings. Gray Hairstreak caterpillars have adapted to eat from more than 30 plant families, although legumes and mallows are most frequently chosen. Larvae bore into buds and also eat flowers, often taking on the hue of the blossoms they eat. Green, yellow, white, pink, even purple caterpillars occur (see photos below). 

Gray Hairstreaks range throughout the continental United States. They will eventually be documented in every county in Alabama. 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 High Count information shows the highest numbers recorded for this species as well as when and where they occurred.

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, Blount, Bullock, Butler, Calhoun, Chambers, Cherokee, Chilton, Clay, Cleburne, Coffee, Colbert, Coosa, Covington, Crenshaw, Cullman, Dale, Dallas, DeKalb, Elmore, Escambia, Etowah, Fayette, Franklin, Geneva, Hale, Henry, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Lee, Limestone, Lowndes, Macon, Madison, Marengo, Marion, Marshall, Mobile, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Randolph, Shelby, St. Clair, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Walker, Washington, Wilcox, Winston

  • Map Symbol for Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Map Symbol for Semi-Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Map Symbol for Old Sightings Sightings more than 10 years ago

High count(s):

  • 51 - Baldwin - 10/2/2023
  • 46 - Baldwin - 9/14/2023
  • 21 - Cleburne - 8/27/2020
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 1 1 3 1 2 2 6 6 2 2 14 9 52 14 41 17 27 31 39 61 68 35 70 58 57 102 101 85 133 98 110 94 42 8 3 3 1 1 1 5

Habitat

Open, disturbed sites including roadsides, fields, pastures, gardens, agricultural land, utility right-of-ways. parks, prairies, savannas, sandhills, flatwoods, and more.

Gray Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)
County
© Paulette Haywood Ogard
Pasture with Hogwort/Wooly Croton
Gray Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)
County
© Paulette Haywood Ogard
Utility right-of-way
Gray Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)
County
© Paulette Haywood Ogard
Meadow
Gray Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)
County
© Sara Bright
Woodland opening
Gray Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)
County
© Paulette Haywood Ogard
Sunny meadow
Gray Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)
County
© Sara Bright
Flowery field
Gray Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)
County
© Sara Bright
Sunny roadside
Gray Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)
County
© Sara Bright
Suburban garden
Gray Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)
County
© Paulette Haywood Ogard
Disturbed area

Host and Nectar Plants

Food plants represent more than 30 plant families, but those in the Pea family (Fabaceae) and Mallow family (Malvacaea) are most common. 

The following have been documented as hosts in Alabama:

  • Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii

For more information about these plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the links above.

Gray Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)
County
© Sara Bright
Curly Dock
Gray Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)
County
© Sara Bright
Common Partridge Pea
Gray Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)
County
© Paulette Haywood Ogard
Thicket Bean
Gray Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)
County
© Sara Bright
Hogwort/Wooly Croton
Gray Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)
County
© Sara Bright
Meadow Beauty
Gray Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)
County
© Karen Chiasson
White Clover
Gray Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)
County
© Dan Spaulding
Downy Milk Pea
Gray Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)
County
© Theo Witsell
Downy Milk Pea

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.