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Field and Swamp: Animals and Their Habitats

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Hairstreaks and Blues (Lycaenidae)

Eastern North Carolina is full of blues and hairstreaks, but you won't notice them unless you look for them.  You might have noticed something moving on your lawn or in a meadow and shrugged it off.  After all, so many moths that look like splinters of wood when they land do that too!   They come out in force soon after a rain shower, but not until after the skippers do.  Anyway, below are some of the goodies that might be hiding right under your nose.

Hairstreaks and Elfins (subfamily Theclinae)

When hairstreaks notice a predator close by, they turn their hindwings toward the predator and rub them together.  There's a standing theory is that hairstreaks do this to mimic a brightly colored butterfly head with a dark eye and antennae, so that a hungry bird might take a bite out of that part of the hindwings, mistaking it for a butterfly head.  But I've never seen a hairstreak with just that part missing, and don't birds have better vision than that anyway?  Could the hairstreak be trying to imitate a poisonous caterpillar instead?   Still, there's that puzzling question of why all that color and movement is confined to such a small part of an otherwise dull-looking butterfly. 

Elfins are an interesting subclass of  hairstreaks.  The Brown Elfin, the most common kind, doesn't have tails, but Henry's Elfin does.

Harvester (Feniseca tarquinius)

Its Nature Conservancy Global Rank is G4, meaning its conservation status is apparently secure globally.  Its major food source is the Woolly Alder Aphid.

Harvester, Boone, Watauga County, NC, 8/6/08.  Seen flying wildly about over the Community Trail, then hid in the vegetation on the side. Harvester, dorsal view, Duke Forest, Korstian Division, Orange County, NC, 5/3/06


Brown Elfin (Callophrys augustinus), found near Brown Elfin Knob on Occoneechee Mountain on 4/20/04.  No tails, even though it's technically a hairstreak. Genus name considered by some to be Incisalia (within Lycaenia, Brown Elfin, Occoneechee Mountain Natural Area, Orange County, NC, 4/9/06 Brown Elfin, Oconeechee Mountain Natural Area, Orange County, NC, 4/14/11.  Seen on main mountain.  


Henry's Elfin (Callophrys henrici), Eno River SP, Old Cole Mill Road access, Orange County, NC, 4/25/05.  Note the prominent tails, in contrast with the Brown Elfin. Henry's Elfin, White Pines Nature Preserve, Chatham County, NC, 4/16/06

Great Purple Hairstreak (Atlides halesus)

Great Purple Hairstreak (Atlides halesus), Lake Jordan Dam Visitors Center, Chatham County, NC, 9/25/05.  Thanks to Jeff Pippen for reporting its appearance there. Great Purple Hairstreak (Atlides halesus), Milltail Road, mainland Dare County, NC, 10/6/05.

White-M Hairstreak (Parrhasius m-album)

White M Hairstreak (Parrhasius m-album), Indian Creek Wildlife Observation Trail, Chatham County, NC, 3/10/06.  The dorsal side of these butterflies' wings has a deeply saturated blue color visible when they are flying but never after they land. White-M Hairstreakm, Flat River Impoundment, Mangum, Durham County, NC.  Part of the near hindwing (including the bottom half of the red spot) has been torn off, showing the deep blue dorsal side on the far hindwing.  

Banded Hairstreak (Satyrium calanus)

Banded Hairstreak (Satyrium calanus), Durham, NC, 6/10/08 Banded Hairstreak, near beginning of trail leading to McAfee's Knob summit    

Juniper Hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus)

These butterflies are supposed to be found where there are Red Cedars, but the Juniper Hairstreak-to-Red Cedar ratio is disappointingly low (and the same may be said with regard to junipers).  The individuals below would probably all be considered to in the "olive" group even though there is some significant color variation.

Juniper Hairstreak, Durham, 7/4/03 Juniper Hairstreak, Ocracoke, Hyde County, NC, 5/10/06, seen in an area with many Red Cedars. Juniper Hairstreak, Penny's Bend Nature Preserve, Durham County, NC, 4/20/07.  Seen along Eno River flying above leaf litter.

Gray Hairstreak (Stryman melinus)

Gray Hairstreak (Stryman melinus), Durham, 5/18/06.  Gray hairstreak, Durham, NC, 9/22/08 Gray hairstreak, Durham, 6/26/05.  It's almost impossible  to get a full dorsal view (from above) of most hairstreaks, but not in the case of the Gray Hairstreak.

Red-banded Hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops)

Red-banded Hairstreak, Carolina Beach State Park, New Hanover County, NC, 4/28/05.  This butterfly landed next to a pine needle and twisted its wing temporarily against it, but quickly took off anyway. Red-banded Hairstreak, Mason Farm Biological Reserve, Orange County, NC, 8/24/05. Red-banded Hairstreak, Durham, 9/4/05. This Red-banded Hairstreak (Durham, 9/6/05) has an anomalous reddish border on its wings. Red-banded Hairstreak, Ft. Fisher Recreational Area, New Hanover County, NC, 6/22/06

Blues (sub-family Polyommatinae):

You don't have to go to Brazil to see blue butterflies, but this far from the equator they're pretty small.  As butterflies that prefer "disturbed" areas, they are vulnerable to heavy rains, their numbers decreasing afterward.

Eastern Tailed Blue (Cupido comyntas)

Male Eastern Tailed Blue, Eno River State Park, Orange County, NC, 4/24/11 Female Eastern Tailed Blue (Cupido comyntas), Durham, 6/28/04.  Unlike blues of other species, and like hairstreaks, these have eyespots and tails.  Both of these butterflies emerged after a rain shower, apparently after taking cover under blades of grass. Male Eastern Tailed Blue, Durham, 6/28/04. Male Eastern Tailed Blue, Tyrrell County, NC, 9/24/04.  This ETB looks a little different: darker, with more prominent veins, and the tails seem to be missing.  Also, the orange spots are harder to see.  Another view of a male Eastern Tailed Blue, Durham, NC.  It's slightly wrinkled, suggesting it's newly hatched from the chrysalis.


Eastern Tailed Blue, Durham, 7/22/05.  Notice the little tails, which are in perfect condition, and are shaped like tassels. Eastern Tailed Blue, Durham, NC, 5/7/08This one has lost its tails. Mating Eastern Tailed Blues, Durham, NC, 10/16/08


Female Eastern Tailed Blue,  Durham, 5/23/05.  No tails on this one. Female Eastern Tailed Blue, Durham, 6/8/05.  This one was missing one tail; the other is not visible in this picture, and had a pale, washed-out color. Female Eastern Tailed Blue, Durham, 6/26/05.  Maybe the ETBs are making a comeback. Male Eastern Tailed Blue, Durham, 6/29/05.  Note: this image was not enhanced in any way: this butterfly was apparently in pristine condition. Male Eastern Tailed Blue, Little Scaly Mountain, Macon County, NC, 8/11/05.  Note the orange in the forewing border.

Some especially torn-up or deformed Eastern Tailed Blues

Female Eastern Tailed Blue, 6/24/05.  This was the only ETB I'd seen since before two heavy rains in the previous couple of weeks.  Another view of the butterfly on the left. This weather-beaten butterfly, probably a male Eastern Tailed Blue, showed up in a grassy Durham field on 7/4/05.  Note the small hole in the right forewing. This male Eastern Tailed Blue had lost some of his blue stuff from his right forewing in Dare County, NC, on 10/5/05. Female Eastern Tailed Blue, Duke Forest, Gate 12, Durham, NC, 10/14/05.  On this day, I saw more than 10 ETBs, but only one was male.  Clearly the end of butterfly season is in sight.


Not sure what happened to this female Eastern Tailed Blue, seen at Mason Farm Biological Reserve on 5/18/06. Same Eastern Tailed Blue.  It was able to get around without difficulty, however.

Azures (Celastrina genus)

Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon), Eno River State Park, Old Cole Mill Road access, 3/13/07


Spring Azure,  Eno River SP, Old Cole Mill Rd. access, Orange County, NC, 2/28/06. This butterfly had the richest blue of any azure I've seen. Spring Azure, Eno River State Park, Old Cole Mill Road Access, 4/4/05. Spring Azure, Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh, Wake County, NC, 3/17/06.  You can see a little of the dorsal side.


Spring Azure, Indian Creek Wildlife Observation Trail, Chatham County, NC, 3/10/06 Spring Azure, Penny's Bend Nature Preserve, Durham County, NC, 4/5/06 Summer Azure (Celastrina neglecta), Durham, 5/27/05.


Jeff Pippen thinks this is a worn Azure.  I saw it at the Eno River State Park, Old Cole Mill Road access on 9/11/04.  It's unusual to see an azure so far out in the woods this late in the year.

© Copyright 2004-2007 Dorothy Pugh