The Hairstreak Butterfly Mystery

After lunch, house quiet with kids playing or away at one of their day camps, I pop out into the garden to investigate and tend, always finding a pleasant mystery to share with the littles.

Today’s mystery was the hairstreak butterfly (I’m pretty sure the common gray – Strymon melinus). With the progressing season, I considered trimming my ragged mint blooms back to encourage growth, but my gut said no and I’m grateful. We’ve had more types of bees (still working on decent photos), and several new butterflies including this gem.

Solitary bees enjoying leftover mint blooms.

Click Here for Information on Texas Native Bees

I’ve seen them before, piquing my interest with their odd wing rubbing movement. And if you look closely, it’s as if there were two extra antennae at the base of the tail and false eyes.

“They like to bask in the sun with wings spread wide, unlike most hairstreaks, but they also rub their hindwings together in the typical fashion of most hairstreaks. This back-and-forth movement makes the wings look like antennae, apparently to fool predators into attacking a less vital part of their body. They are best seen when at rest and their wings are folded together over the back, one hind wing sometimes raised while the other is lowered. (Drees and Jackman, 1998Milne and Milne, 1980Tveten and Tveten, 1996)”

-Animal Diversity Web (ADW), University of Michigan Museum of Zoology

Today I looked into the behavior a bit more and found this Ohio photographer’s blog article written on the subject, from a new different viewpoint. If you get a glimpse of the wings from behind and below, the image is mind blowing and worth more research! Such a beautiful creature about the size of one’s thumbnail. Thank you, Jim McCormac, for the fascinating insight! *Please click on his blog link to see it!*

Then yesterday I noticed our parsley hatched a new brood of black swallowtail caterpillars, this survivor braving the near 100 degree temps.

Eastern Black Swallowtail
Papilio polyxenes asterius

The little one appears to be napping, unperturbed by my movements or Texas ‘breezes’ swaying it’s tiny perch. It’s the fist time I’ve witnessed a caterpillar maintaining this position. I assume it has to do with the heat. My oldest girl insisted I bring this one in too, and it’s now feeding happily in cooler temps. Our other chrysalis from late May is still “wintering” probably due to the AC. We hope at least! I’ll place it back out in the yard at the end of the month if doesn’t hatch by then.

We may need to turn temps up for this one so as to not confuse the heck out of it!


    1. Sarah

      It’s nice to know our experience can bring a little joy to others. Thank you for sharing your family’s encounters with the natural world. Keep exploring and asking questions!

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