An Ongoing Mystery: Why are Most Gray Hairstreak Butterflies so Perfect?

Gray Hairstreak photographed by Jeff Zablow at Fort Federica, Saint Simons Island, GA

An ongoing mystery for me: Why are most of the Gray Hairstreak Butterflies so perfect? Few I find are bird-struck. Few show any wing damage caused by predators. Why? Often I wonder if these Grays produce substances that are either toxic or distasteful. I’ve not resolved this question, not yet. You?

Glassberg’s A Swift Guide to the Butterflies of North America offers that Gray Hairstreaks “will use a large number of species in many plant families” as their hostplants. Our new 800 Garden’s now has black cherry trees, Chokecherry, Ironwood, Yellowwood, Rusty Blackhaw, Blackhaw, Black Gum, Tulip Poplar, Linden, Hop Tree, Hackberry trees, Hercules Club, Bronze Fennel, Hickories, Dogwoods and more so much more. I do hope that among these all, we have hostplants for Grays.

They so remind me of the several times in my life when we’ve been invited and asked to come in tuxedo. They look like they are just like I was, in a ‘monkey suit,’ trying to look elegant, though feeling a bit . . . foolish.

Grays usually don’t flee when your approach is reasonably cautious, again reminding of how some enjoy having their pictures taken when in tuxes, as though at they moment they felt . . . important.

Gray Hairstreaks make we wonder, make me think, and make me remember back when tuxedos were de rigeur.

Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania, 8 plus hours west of the MOMA Museum in New York, New York.

Jeff

Erato Heliconian Butterfly at the National Butterfly Center near Mission Texas

Erato Heliconian Butterfly on Grass photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

This one sure has difficulty trying to hide in the near dark National Butterfly Center grass. Those bold, bright red stripes blare out at you. Makes you wonder why this rare butterfly, that occasionally visits there, wonder why it has those red stripes.

When it did finally fly, it flew down the trail, some nearly 150 feet, always in sight and it followed a straight-line path, some 4 feet above the ground. I watched, transfixed, for I saw something that intrigued me. During that straight-line flight, those red stripes were always visible, they actually were always easily seen.

My hypothesis? This butterfly must be toxic to predators that would prey on it. Those red stripes may signal habitat predators that this butterfly is toxic (poisonous), and should not be captured.

Do you concur with this opinion?

Jeff