by Steven J. Cary
The Gossamerwings (Lycaenidae). New Mexico has more than 50 Lycaenids in three subfamilies: Coppers, Hairstreaks and Blues. All are small, but many have bright colors or intricate patterns. Because of narrow ecological needs, finding members of this group can be both challenging and rewarding. During immature stages, most Lycaenids exhibit mutualistic relationships with ants, called myrmecophily.
The Hairstreaks (Lycaenidae: Theclinae). Hairstreaks embody beauty accentuated by small stature and heightened by the detective work often required to track them down. They reward the effort by presenting easy photographic targets of their undersides. Most will not reveal uppersides when perched. Our 27 species in Subfamily Theclinae, all small, vary from dull to dazzling.
- Colorado Hairstreak (Hypaurotis crysalus)
- Great Purple Hairstreak (Atlides halesus)
- Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak (Strymon istapa)
- Tailless Scrub-hairstreak (Strymon cestri)
- Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)
- Leda Ministreak (Minstrymon leda)
- Thicket Hairstreak (Callophrys spinetorum)
- Juniper Hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus)
- Brown Elfin (Callophrys augustinus)
- Desert Elfin (Callophrys fotis)
- Hoary Elfin (Callophrys polios)
- Henry’s Elfin (Callophrys henrici)
- Western Pine Elfin (Callophrys eryphon)
- New Mexico Hairstreak (Callophrys mcfarlandi)
- Xami Hairstreak (Callophrys xami)
- Sheridan’s Hairstreak (Callophrys sheridanii)
- Bramble Hairstreak (Callophrys affinis)
- Silver-banded Hairstreak (Chlorostrymon simaethis)
- Arizona Hairstreak (Erora quaderna)
- Behr’s Hairstreak (Satyrium behrii)
- Coral Hairstreak (Satyrium titus)
- Poling’s Hairstreak (Satyrium polingi)
- Oak Hairstreak (Satyrium favonius)
- Ilavia Hairstreak (Satyrium ilavia)
- Soapberry Hairstreak (Satyrium alcestis)
- Striped Hairstreak (Satyrium liparops)
- Banded Hairstreak (Satyrium calanus)
- Sylvan Hairstreak (Satyrium sylvinus)
Hypaurotis crysalus (W.H. Edwards) Colorado Hairstreak (updated January 2, 2021)
Description. Hypaurotis crysalus is not merely large and striking for a hairstreak, it also is vivid purple above with orange patches. It is silver-gray below, with a superb false head to distract bird predators. Range and Habitat. This butterfly lives in oak groves from the central Rockies (UT,CO,NM,AZ) south to the Mexican Sierra Madre. In New Mexico it occupies our major uplands with the host, usually 6500 to 9000′(counties: Be,Ca,Ci,Co,Gr,Li,LA,MK,Mo,Ot,RA,Sv,SJ,SM,SF,Si,So,Ta,To,Un). Life History. Colorado Hairstreak larvae eat foliage of Gambel’s Oak (Quercus gambelii; Fagaceae). Winter is passed as an egg. Flight. Single-brooded, adults fly in middle to late summer. New Mexico observations span June 12 through September 17, peaking during July and August; nevermind one oddball sighting from April 4, 2014. Adults bask dorsally in the morning, wings at 45 degree angles. They disappear for mid-day, then become most active in late afternoon and early evening. Males patrol casually about the oak canopy. Adults visit moist earth, but rarely come to nectar. Comments. We have the nominate subspecies in New Mexico.
Atlides halesus (Cramer) Great ‘Purple’ Hairstreak (updated March 23, 2021)
Description. Despite the common name, Purple Hairstreak is intense, iridescent blue above and jet black below. Vivid red and orange patches decorate the body and wing bases. Hindwing tails are iridescent green-gold when fresh. Range and Habitat. Atlides halesus lives in much of the southern US and Mexico. In New Mexico it occupies Upper Sonoran life zones up to 7000’ elevation (all counties but Co,Cu,DB,Ha,Le,Mo,Qu,Ro,Un). Life History. Larvae eat broad-leaf mistletoes (Phoradendron spp.; Loranthaceae) which parasitize deciduous trees and junipers. Flight. Records from February 4 to November 29 indicate two broods in central New Mexico and three farther south. Males establish and defend territories on hilltop treetops. Both sexes frequent flowers and, occasionally, damp sand. Comments. New Mexico is in the blend zone between the nominate race of the southeastern US and subspecies Atlides halesus corcorani Clench of the southwestern US.
Strymon istapa (Reakirt) Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak
This insect makes Mexico its home range, but it does stray with some regularity into extreme southwestern US from California to the lower Rio Grande Valley in south Texas. In New Mexico it is but a rarely seen stray along the border, where we have few observers. Kilian Roever found one along SR 338 south of Animas (county: Hidalgo) on October 23, 2006. Larvae eat plants in the Mallow family and seasonal breeding is not out of the question, but there is no evidence that Strymon istapa can survive our winters, so we can expect it only as an occasional stray.
Strymon cestri (Reakirt) Tailless Scrub-Hairstreak (updated March 9, 2021)
This insect is one of a group of subtropical scrub hairstreaks that, within the US, are most frequently seen in the lower Rio Grande valley of south Texas. They all wander to some extent, but they are inconspicuous, frequent desert hilltops which humans rarely visit, and so may be more widely distributed than records indicate. Strymon cestri is included in the New Mexico butterfly fauna by virtue of two recent sightings. The author photographed a worn male in the eastern foothills of the Black Range (Sierra County) in mid-afternoon on May 11, 2016. It was hilltopping vigorously about a small juniper, on a summit of 6167 feet, in competition with a more dominant Atlides halesus. Most recently, Matt Brown found a single Strymon cestri nectaring at Bear Trap Campground in the San Mateo Mtns. (Socorro County) on June 18, 2020. One sighting can be dismissed as a fluke. The more recent sighting now makes a person wonder . . . is Strymon cestri already a breeding resident in southern New Mexico? Did it sneak in under the border radar, so to speak, and set up camp in New Mexico’s part of the Rio Grande Valley? Time will tell.
Strymon melinus Hübner Gray Hairstreak
Description. This common, widespread butterfly has a silver-gray underside with a white and black submarginal line. The hindwing below has an orange tornal spot and a tail. this false head is echoed dorsally, but on a darker gray ground. Range and Habitat. Gray Hairstreaks occur across all of temperate North America and Central America. It is ubiquitous in New Mexico (all counties) and has been found at elevations from 3000 to 10,000′. Life History. Strymon melinus larvae may be the most polyphagous of all butterflies in North America. Plants in more than 50 families are known hosts and many likely remain to be documented. Legumes may be preferred. Flight. Strymon melinus completes two to three generations per year. It flies on most warm season days almost anywhere in the state. Early and late dates are January 16 and November 26. Males perch head-down on hilltop shrubs, sometimes opening their wings to display the false head. Adults nectar avidly. Comments. Aberration meinersi Gunder, lacking all orange pigment, turns up rarely. In the 1890s, Professor C. H. T. Townsend captured a Gray Hairstreak at the Rio Ruidoso, 7600′ (Lincoln County), on 3 August. That specimen, the first record of this species from New Mexico, is at the US National Museum in Washington, D.C.
Ministrymon leda (W. H. Edwards) Leda Ministreak
Description. Leda is our smallest Thecline. Dorsally, the forewing is mostly black and the hindwing is iridescent blue, though uppersides are rarely displayed. Undersides are silvery gray, frosted with white; a narrow band of orange, black and white staggers across the hindwing and contributes a “W” to the false head. The winter form is darker (see photo below), and does show up occasionally. Range and Habitat. Leda lives in northern Mexico and the southwest US, chiefly CA,NV,AZ,NM and TX. It prefers mesquite thorn-scrub habitats. In New Mexico it breeds only in southern lowland areas, but it does wander north, sometimes a long way (counties: Be,Ca,Ch,Ci,DA,Ed,Gr,Hi,Li,Lu,MK,Ot,Qu,RA,Sv,SM,SF,Si,So,To). It usually is found below 6000′, but it strays upward to 8000′ and rarely to 9500’. Life History. Leda larvae eat woody legumes (Fabaceae), primarily honey mesquite (Prosopis juliflora). Flight. There are two or three annual generations in southern New Mexico. Flight peaks are in June and September. Extreme flight dates are April 28 and November 29. Adults perch on host leaves and nectar greedily. Comments. The oldest New Mexico record is a specimen in the USNM collected by P. R. Gleason in Central (Gr), on 1 June 1938. Our northernmost reports (SF,RA) date from 1992 (and now 2020), apparently good years for Leda Ministreaks. More northward expansion would not be a surprise in warming climates. They can’t get too far without host mesquites, but domestic livestock are rapidly spreading mesquites throughout New Mexico, so that may not be an obstacle for Leda.
Callophrys (Cisinsicalia) spinetorum (Hewitson) Thicket Hairstreak
Description. Thicket Hairstreaks are brown below with a narrow white postmedian line. A row of black dots and a false head decorate the hindwing tornal region. The steel blue upperside is glimpsed only in flight. Range and Habitat. Callophrys spinetorum lives in from British Columbia south to central Mexico and from the Pacific coast east to the Rocky Mountains. In New Mexico it occupies pine woodlands (counties: Be,Ca,Ci,Co,DA,Ed,Gr,Ha,Li,LA,Lu,MK,Mo,Ot,RA,Sv,SJ,SM,SF,So,Ta,To,Va), 6500 to 9800′. Life History. Thicket Hairstreak larvae eat dwarf mistletoes (Viscaceae), which parasitize conifers (Pinaceae). Documented hosts include Arceuthobium spp., which parasitize Pinus ponderosa and P. edulis. Pupae overwinter. Flight. Two overlapping generations peak in May and again in July – August. Extreme early and late dates are March 11 and September 11. Thicket Hairstreaks perch and nectar in sunny, open pine woods. Males occasionally hilltop. Comments. In New Mexico’s southeast quadrant, populations of Thicket Hairstreaks have a low, but consistent, frequency of individuals bearing an extra white bar on the hindwing underside. This is considered to be Mexican subspecies Callophrys spinetorum millerorum Clench (see Robbins 1991).
Callophrys (Mitoura) gryneus (Hübner) Juniper Hairstreak
Description. Callophrys gryneus in New Mexico is bright green below with a single white line on forewing and hindwing, plus tails. It is dark above, but usually overscaled with blond or rust red. Bright green fades to gray-brown over time. Range and Habitat. Juniper Hairstreaks live throughout much of temperate North America. It is widespread in New Mexico below 8000′ (all counties but Le). Life History. Larvae eat almost any species of juniper or cedar (Cupressaceae). Juniperus scopulorum, J. monosperma, J. deppeana, J. erythrocarpa and J. osteosperma are confirmed hosts in New Mexico. Pupae overwinter. Throughout North America, including New Mexico, invasion of abandoned agricultural lands by junipers and cedars has expanded potential range and habitat for Juniper Hairstreaks. Flight. Callophrys gryneus is bi- or tri-voltine in New Mexico, flying between March 15 and September 24. Peak flights in southern New Mexico are in April, July and September, shifting to May and August in northern New Mexico and at higher elevations. Juniper Hairstreaks bask in the morning, nectar at midday then perch for mates in the afternoon. Comments. Western Callophrys gryneus siva (W. H. Edwards), which typifies New Mexico populations, was once considered a distinct species from eastern C. g. gryneus (Hübner), which has two hindwing basal white bars and a very irregular white band. The two races seem to blend in the sparsely-junipered Llano Estacado and Caprock of southeastern New Mexico and west TX, producing a modest number of intermediate forms bearing one or two basal white bars. This is most frequently seen in the Guadalupe Mountains (Ed).
Callophrys (Incisalia) augustinus (Westwood) Brown Elfin (updated March 9, 2021)
Description. Like other “elfins”, Callophrys augustinus is small and lacks the false head and tails of other hairstreaks. It is brown above and below; the ventral hindwing is dark basally and iridescent mahogany or gold-brown distally. Range and Habitat. Brown Elfins are widespread in temperate and subarctic North America, from AK east to NF, south to GA, AL and the Sierra Madre of Mexico. They inhabit wooded savannas in mountains of northern NM (counties: Co,RA,Sv,SJ,SF,SM) and southwest NM (counties: Ca,DA,Gr,Hi,Lu), generally 5200 to 8500′. Life History. Hosts in New Mexico are bearberry or kinnickinnic (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) in the north and manzanita (Arctostaphylos pungens) in the south (both Ericaceae). Pupae overwinter. Flight. Adults are univoltine and fly in spring; extreme dates are February 25 to June 3. Peak flight occurs in April in the southwest and in May farther north. Brown Elfins bask and perch on hosts and come to nectar (e.g., willow) and wet sand. Comments. Some taxonomists consider the correct name to be Callophrys augustus (W. Kirby). Our populations belong to ssp. Callophrys augustinus annetteae (dos Passos), which was described in 1943 from specimens collected at an unknown location in “New Mexico.” When seeking Brown Elfin in its habitat, I find it useful to patiently scan green-leafed manzanita bushes for the occasional brown “leaf.”
Callophrys (Incisalia) fotis (Strecker) Desert Elfin
Description. Desert Elfins have gray dorsal colors with a gold sheen. The ventrum is mottled gray with frosty, whitish scaling on the hindwing. Range and Habitat. Desert Elfins have a limited distribution in the Great Basin and Mojave Deserts in California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and northwest New Mexico (counties: Ci,MK,Sv(?),SJ). Here it lives in Upper Sonoran Zone canyons and foothills where the host grows, usually 6000 to 8000′ elevation. Life History. This butterfly’s life cycle depends entirely on cliffrose (Cowania mexicana var. stansburiana; Rosaceae). Eggs are placed on the flowers; larvae eat flowers and nutritious young fruit. Winter is passed by the pupae. Flight. Adults emerge in spring. Observations fall between April 17 and June 8, with peak numbers in May. Desert Elfins fly near the pale, scented flowers of the shrubby host, perching nearby or feeding at flowers and moist sand. Comments. Nominate Callophrys fotis includes the New Mexico colonies. The Carnegie Museum has a John Woodgate specimen labeled from the Jemez Mountains (Sv?) on 22 April 1916. That is our first report, but there are no modern reports from that area. Confirmation of that Sandoval County report is desired. A couple years earlier, Woodgate collected extensively in the Zuni Mountains where Desert Elfins remain well established, so it is not unreasonable to speculate that the CM specimen was actually caught in the Zunis and simply mislabeled later.
Callophrys (Incisalia) polios (Cook & Watson) Hoary Elfin (updated December 31, 2020)
Description. Hoary Elfin is brown above and gray-brown beneath. The hindwing underside is dark basally and lighter distally with a band of dark spots and rust-colored highlights. It resembles a chip of pine bark when perched. Range and Habitat. This little butterfly lives from Canada south to the Appalachians and in the southern Rockies as far as the mountains of north-central NM (counties: Co,LA,MK,Mo,RA,Sv,SM,SF,Ta). New Mexico records indicate a preference for open pine woodlands and savannas, 7300 to 10,400′, where the larval host sprawls across sunny forest floors. Life History. The New Mexico host is the low groundcover, kinnickinnic or bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi; Ericaceae). Richard Holland observed oviposition on this plant near Fenton Lake (Sv) on 4 May 1996. The chrysalis overwinters and adults emerge upon persistent spring warmth. Flight. Callophrys polios is univoltine in spring. Our observations fall between March 27 and June 19, with greatest numbers in May. Hoary Elfins fly near the ground, frequently perching and nectaring on or near stands of the prostrate host. Comments. Our populations our Callophrys polios obscurus (Ferris and M. Fisher). Callophrys polios and Callophrys augustinus may fly together in the same patches of kinnickinnic. If you see one, then look for the other.
Callophrys (Incisalia) henrici (Grote & Robinson) Henry’s Elfin (updated December 31, 2020)
Description. Henry’s Elfin is brown. Lavender highlights and a small tail make up the rudimentary false head near the ventral hindwing tornus. Males lack a dorsal forewing stigma, which is unique among the elfins. Range and Habitat. This generally is a butterfly of eastern North America, but a courageous southwestern race occurs in west Texas, northeast Mexico and as far west as southern New Mexico (counties: DA,Ed). Here this butterfly inhabits rocky Chihuahuan Desert canyons below 5500′ and supporting the host. Life History. Overall, Henry’s Elfin uses hosts that produce spring flowers and fleshy fruits, regardless of plant family. Our populations have red or green larvae (see photos below) that eat buds, flowers and seeds of New Mexico buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa; Sapindaceae). Pupae diapause through summer and winter. Flight. Univoltine adults emerge in early spring. New Mexico records span February 22 to April 30. Look for Henry’s Elfin near the larval host, a large woody shrub with bright pink flowers – easy to pick out on early spring days in the desert. Comments. Our handful of colonies belong to Trans-Pecos subspecies Callophrys henrici solatus (Cook & Watson).
Callophrys (Incisalia) eryphon (Boisduval) Western Pine Elfin
Description. This is our largest and most widespread elfin; it is thumbnail-size instead of merely fingernail-size! It is brown above and red-brown below. The ventrum has an intricate design of quilted colors. Wing fringes are strongly checked black and white. Range and Habitat. Pine Elfin inhabits nearly all pine-cloaked mountains in western North America north of Mexico. It overlaps with its eastern cousin, Callophrys niphon (Hübner), in central Canada. It New Mexico it occupies Transition and Canadian Zone woodlands in all our major mountain ranges (counties: Ca,Ci,Co,Gr,LA,MK,Mo,Ot,RA,Sv,SJ,SM,SF,So?,Ta), usually 7000 to 9600′. Life History. Callophrys eryphon larvae eat fresh needle growth of various pines (Pinaceae). Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) is the principal host in New Mexico, but piñon (Pinus edulis) may be used on occasion. Flight. This butterfly is univoltine with adults on the wing from April 13 to July 16, peaking in May. Look for Pine Elfins in pine savannas where they perch head-high on and near young pine saplings. They also nectar at flowers. Comments. We have the nominate race. An unconfirmed report from Socorro County may yet be substantiated.
Callophrys (Sandia) mcfarlandi P. Ehrlich & Clench New Mexico Hairstreak, Sandia Hairstreak (updated December 31, 2020)
Description. This is the most famous of New Mexico’s green hairstreaks. Underneath it is bright, iridescent green with marginal and submarginal white lines enclosing dark and violet scaling. Dorsal colors are muted gray-gold. Range and Habitat. Callophrys mcfarlandi was discovered in New Mexico, a state which still encompasses nearly all of its US range. It is regular east of the Rio Grande, but more localized to the west, 4200-7200’ (all counties except Ca,Gr,Le,LA,MK,RA,SJ,Ta). It occurs in west Texas, south into Mexico, and a colony was recently discovered just north of the Colorado border in the Mesa de Maya area. Life History. Larvae have a very restricted diet, eating only flowers and developing seeds of Texas beargrass (Nolina texana var. compacta; Agavaceae). The similar Nolina microcarpa is widespread in southwest New Mexico and Arizona, but it blooms in late in summer, which apparently is a deal-killer. Pupae overwinter. Flight. Adults fly in an extended spring brood spanning February 26 to July 4, peaking in April. It generally flies for only a month in any given location, the timing driven by local weather. A rare summer partial emergence is represented by July 29 and August 19 captures. After a dry winter, the Nolina may not bloom and C. mcfarlandi pupae may remain in diapause for another year, or another and another. New Mexico Hairstreaks perch and nectar near host plants. Comments. The first New Mexico Hairstreak was collected near High Rolls (Ot) on 12 June 1902, but the specimen languished. Callophrys mcfarlandi was finally described in 1959  from specimens taken in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains, hence its other English name: Sandia Hairstreak.
Callophrys (Xamia) xami (Reakirt) Xami Hairstreak (updated December 31, 2020)
Description. Xami looks a fair bit like Callophrys gryneus with a more olive green ventral ground color. The hindwing postmedian white line is smooth on the basal side, but is formed into an unmistakable “W” at the tornus, thus accentuating the tails and the false head. Range and Habitat. Xami is a Mexican species whose range extends into the southwest US in southern Arizona, southwest Texas and southwest New Mexico (counties: Gr). Its colonies are very local in Upper Sonoran cliff country where the larval hosts grow and where finding new colonies can be very challenging. Life History. Larvae eat succulent Crassulaceae, including Sedum species and Echeveria species Hosts in Arizona and New Mexico appear to be the scarce cliff specialists Graptopetalum bartramii, Graptoptealum rusbyi and a Sedum species. Flight. Several generations are passed each year near Mexico City. In New Mexico we expect two or three broods. Our one record with data is for 22 April 1989, but flight peaks also could occur in July and October. Adults come to nectar, but do not wander far from cliff-dwelling larval hosts. Comments. Kilian Roever discovered this species in New Mexico at the Apache Box (Gr). Xami should occur in other cliffy southwest New Mexico desert mountains, too, but so far no other colonies have been located.
Callophrys (Callophrys) sheridanii (W. H. Edwards) Sheridan’s Hairstreak (updated January 2, 2021)
Description. On Sheridan’s Hairstreak, the hindwing white line is bold, regular and nearly continuous. This butterfly is gray above, not brown as in Bramble Hairstreak. Range and Habitat. Sheridan’s Hairstreak lives in the Great Basin from Washington to California and east to the Rockies. Satellite colonies occur in North Dakota, Nebraska, Arizona and south-central New Mexico. Here it occurs from 7000 to 10,000′ in the Sierra Blanca Range and near Chama (counties: Li,Ot,RA). Life History. Larvae eat various wild buckwheats, or Eriogonum spp. (Polygonaceae). Eriogonum jamesii var. wootonii is the host in the Sacramentos (Li,Ot). Eriogonum jamesii v. jamesii is suspected near Chama (RA). Larvae eat Eriogonum umbellatum elsewhere in the Rockies. Flight. The single annual brood flies from April 9 to July 5, peaking in April at low sites, in May – June at higher sites. Sheridan’s Hairstreaks fly and bask near the ground, occasionally feeding at nectar and wet soil. Comments. Northern New Mexico has the nominate race. Our other population is Callophrys sheridanii sacramento Scott, which is larger with a narrower hindwing white band and with more extensive ventral gray (Scott 2006). Our oldest specimen is in the US National Museum from Cloudcroft (Ot), taken on 11 May 1902 by Henry L. Viereck.
Callophrys (Callophrys) affinis (W. H. Edwards) Bramble Hairstreak (updated December 31, 2020)
Description. Bramble Hairstreaks are green below and rust-brown above. An irregular band of brown-edged, white spots crosses the tailless ventral hindwing. Range and Habitat. Brambles live in the central Rockies south to the Mexican Sierra Madre, including all our major mountains (counties: Ca,Ci,Co,Gr,Li,LA,MK,Ot,RA,Sv,SJ,SM,SF,Ta,Un), usually 6500 – 9000′ elevation. Life History. Fendler’s buckbrush (Ceanothus fendleri; Rhamnaceae) is a major host; larvae also eat buckwheats (i.e., Eriogonum alatum; Polygonaceae) east of the Continental Divide. Larvae on Eriogonum alatum are yellow-green, turning red as flowers go to seed. As with most hairstreaks and blues, ants tend larvae. Because its host plants thrive in frequent-fire landscapes, Callophrys affinis is considered a fire-climax butterfly. Flight. Callophrys affinis is bivoltine. Flights peak in May and July in southern New Mexico, but later farther north. Early and late dates are April 14 and August 31. Adults often perch on Ceanothus fendleri and nectar at its flowers. Comments. Gorelick (2005) showed that Callophrys apama (W. H. Edwards) is a subspecies of Callophrys affinis. Western New Mexico has Callophrys affinis apama (W. H. Edwards) with a prominent white hindwing band. South-central New Mexico (Li,Ot) adults have a nearly immaculate hindwing and are Callophrys affinis albipalpus (Gorelick). The two forms converge in our north-central mountains where the hindwing spot band is variable and adults are placed with subspecies Callophrys affinis homoperplexa (W. Barnes & Benjamin).
Chlorostrymon simaethis (Drury) Silver-Banded Hairstreak
Chlorostrymon simaethis looks at first glance like Juniper Hairstreak, but examination of the hindwing shows a single postmedian silver band against a gray-maroon area.near the tails Males are iridescent purple above; females gray. Silver-banded Hairstreaks occupy subtropical scrublands in Mexico and far south Texas, but they do wander a bit, straying rarely to southern California, southern Arizona, and southern New Mexico. Jeff Glassberg gave us our first sighting, near Oliver Lee Memorial State Park (Ot) on 13 May 1998. Rob Wu saw two nectaring at native Buddleia marrubifolia in Las Cruces (DA) on 21 and 22 May 2020. One was worn, the other fresh, which suggests they may be breeding in that general area. A few days later, Rita Herbst photographed Chlorostrymon simaethis in Silver City (Gr). Larvae eat balloon-vine (Sapindaceae), but reproduction has been considered unlikely in New Mexico. The only vagrant among our green hairstreaks, Silver-Banded is also our rarest, but a warmer climate increases the likelihood of seeing them here.
Erora quaderna (Hewitson) Arizona Hairstreak (updated December 24, 2020)
Description. Arizona Hairstreak undersides are pale green to turquoise, with orange spots, all iridescent. On the topside, which they sometimes show you, males are black while females display sapphire basal scales and a cantaloupe-colored fringe. Range and Habitat. Erora quaderna is distributed from Guatemala north along the Sierra Madre to Arizona, New Mexico and west Texas. In our state it inhabits open woodlands in southwestern and central mountains (counties: Ca,Gr,Hi,Lu,Si,So,To,Va), generally 5400 to 8500′ elevation. Hilltopping males have been found up to 10,000′ in the Black Range (Gr,Si). Life History. Fendler’s buckbrush (Ceanothus fendleri; Rhamnaceae) is a documented larval host; larvae eat nutritious reproductive flower parts. Unconfirmed plants on the larval menu include Arizona oak (Quercus arizonica) and Emory oak (Quercus emoryi) (both Fagaceae). Desert buckbrush (Ceanothus greggii) also merits a look. Flight. Arizona Hairstreaks are bivoltine. Adults fly in spring between March 11 and May 9, peaking in April. The summer brood flies between June 25 and August 15, peaking in July. Females are often seen at flowers (e.g., willows in spring) or wet sand. Males will puddle, too, but most stay on the hilltops and treetops.
Satyrium (Callipsyche) behrii (W. H. Edwards) Behr’s Hairstreak (updated January 1, 2021)
Description. Behr’s Hairstreak has tawny orange dorsal colors edged with brown. Its ventral side has a grizzled appearance, with marginal and submarginal dark spots. The hindwing false head is poorly developed, rather like the elfins. Range and Habitat. Satyrium behrii lives in Transition Zone savannas and shrublands in the Great Basin, from Washington and California east to Wyoming and New Mexico. In our state it is restricted to the north-central and northwest mountains (counties: Be,Co,LA,MK,Mo,RA,Sv,SJ,SM,SF,Ta,To,Un), generally 6500 to 9000′ elevation. Life History. Larvae eat antelope brush (Purshia species) and mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus montanus), both Rosaceae. Eggs overwinter. Flight. Univoltine, adults are in flight from May 20 to August 13, peaking in July. Behr’s Hairstreak nectars avidly, preferring small, white flowers such as Eriogonum jamesii, but never straying far from the shrubby hostplants. Comments. Our populations are Satyrium behrii crossi (W. D. Field), which is darker below than typical Great Basin populations. Some taxonomists place this butterfly in the genus Callipsyche, which is treated here as a subgenus. New Mexico sightings of this grizzled butterfly have declined in recent years.
Satyrium (Satyrium) titus (Fabricius) Coral Hairstreak (updated January 1, 2021)
Description. Satyrium titus resembles its congeners in general size and markings, but in place of a hindwing false head of spots and tails it sports only a pronounced lobe. It is gray-tan with a row of orange-coral spots along the hindwing margin, making it unique among our hairstreaks. Range and Habitat. Coral Hairstreaks occur across much of temperate North America. In New Mexico they live in Transition Zone deciduous woodlands (counties: Be,Co,Li,RA,Sv,SM,SF,Ta,To,Un), usually 6500 to 9200′ elevation. Life History. Throughout its range, Coral Hairstreak larvae eat fruits and foliage of wild plums and cherries (Rosaceae). The main New Mexico host seems to be chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), or ‘capulin’ in local Spanish vernacular. Eggs overwinter. Friendly ants appear to be vital for survival of Satyrium titus colonies. Flight. Univoltine, adults fly between between June 25 and August 30, peaking in July. Coral Hairstreaks nectar avidly and may hilltop. Comments. Colonies in northeast New Mexico (Co,Un) resemble nominate Satyrium titus titus. Colonies in north-central New Mexico resemble Great Basin subspecies Satyrium titus immaculosus (W. Comstock), whose hindwing black spot band is reduced or faded. Members of relict colonies on Nogal Peak and Carrizo Peak (both Li) are recently-described subspecies Satyrium titus carrizozo (R. Holland).
Satyrium (Fixsenia) favonius (J. E. Smith) Oak Hairstreak (updated January 1, 2021)
Description. The Oak Hairstreak (Satyrium favonius) is gray-brown below and dark brown above with two orange patches. Its hindwing false head is decorated with a tail, a stub, a blue spot, marginal orange spots and a white “W.” Range and Habitat. Oak Hairstreaks occupy the eastern US from New York to Florida and west to eastern Colorado and eastern New Mexico. Here they inhabit brushy, oaky Upper Sonoran to Transition Zone canyons and hillsides (counties: Co,Cu,Gr,Ha,Li,Mo,Ot,Qu,SM,Un), from 5000 to 8500′ elevation. Life History. Larvae eat oaks (Fagaceae). Wavy-leaf oak (Quercus undulata) is the host in eastern New Mexico. Eggs overwinter; larvae hatch in spring and feed on fresh buds, flowers and leaves. Flight. Oak Hairstreaks fly in early summer. Our records span May 29 to July 7. Adults are best found nectaring near the host oaks, for example at honey mesquite, horehound or dogbane. Comments. Our populations belong to subspecies Satyrum favonius violae (D. Stallings and Turner), which was described in 1947 from specimens collected near Folsom (Un). Since there is a ‘Southern’ Oak Hairstreak subspecies (Satyrium favonius favonius) and a ‘Northern’ Oak Hairstreak subspecies (Satyrium favonius ontario), it makes complete sense to call our subspecies the ‘Western’ Oak Hairstreak. Populations on the east slope of the Sacramentos are poorly known and need more study.
Satyrium (Fixsenia) ilavia (Beutenmüller) Ilavia Hairstreak
Description. Closely related to the foregoing and following species, Ilavia Hairstreak is brown above with orange-tan patches. Below, it is pale gray-brown with a standard Satyrium false head but with an indistinct postmedian white line. Range and Habitat. A southwestern endemic, Satyrium ilavia lives in oak-studded foothills of the Mogollon Rim massif in Arizona and southwest New Mexico (counties: Gr). Life History. This butterfly is usually found in association with the scrub oak species Quercus turbinella (Fagaceae), which is likely to be its host. Its infrequent occurrence in New Mexico is punctuated by local population booms, suggesting that it extends its diapause during drought years and then capitalizes on wet years when they come along. Flight. New Mexico records are scarce, but the ones we have fall between May 29 and July 7. Look for it at nectar near its host oaks, for example at Amorpha species. Comments. Once considered a geographic subspecies of Satyrium favonius, it is treated as a distinct species by most recent workers (e.g., Opler and Warren 2002, Brock and Kaufman 2003, Pelham 2019).
Satyrium (Fixsenia) polingi (W. Barnes & Benjamin) Poling’s Hairstreak (updated January 1, 2021)
Description. Poling’s Hairstreak is like its close relatives, but the forewing apex is rounded, there is no orange above, the ventrum is slate gray and the hindwing submarginal band of orange spots is reduced, though not as much as in Ilavia. Range and Habitat. Satyrium polingi occupies scrub oak chaparral in mountain ranges of west Texas, southeast New Mexico and northern Mexico (counties: DA,Ed,Li,Ot,Si,So), 5400 – 7000′ elevation. Life History. Evergreen oaks (Fagaceae) are larval hosts. Quercus emoryi and Q. grisea are suspected for the nominate race. Subspecies Satyrium polingi organensis Ferris is associated with stands of Quercus turbinella. Ova overwinter; larvae hatch in spring to eat fresh oak inflorescences. Flight. Univoltine, adults perch on host oaks and nectar at nearby flowers (e.g., Texas beargrass). Look for Satyrium polingi between April 16 and June 20, primarily in late May and early June. Comments. Colonies of the nominate subspecies live in the Guadalupe, Sacramento and Capitan mountains. Subspecies Satyrium polingi organensis was first captured by Richard Holland in the Organ Mountains on 16 April 1979. It has weak or faded hindwing markings and was described as a new subspecies by Clifford D. Ferris (1980). Its colonies extend north along the San Andres Mountains to US 380.
Satyrium (Phaeostrymon) alcestis (W. H. Edwards) Soapberry Hairstreak (updated December 8, 2020)
Description. Satyrium alcestis is light tan-gray below and unmarked dark brown above. Ventral markings are much like those of sister Satyrium species, but there is an extra white bar on ventral forewing and hindwing Range and Habitat. Soapberry Hairstreaks live in the south-central Great Plains and southwestern deserts into northern Mexico, wherever stands of the larval host are found. In New Mexico it likes Upper Sonoran Zone canyons and hillsides (counties: Ch,DB,Ed,Gr,Gu,Ha,Hi,Li,Mo,Qu,Ro,SM,Un), always below 5500′. Life History. Soapberry trees (Sapindus drummondii; Sapindaceae) are the only known host. Eggs overwinter; larvae hatch in spring and eat fresh spring growth. Flight. Adults fly in early summer. New Mexico records fall between May 20 and July 30, peaking in June. Adults perch on the host and seek nectar nearby. On hot days, which are the norm during the June flight period, adults may retreat to the shady interior of soapberry trees. Comments. Populations in southwest New Mexico are lighter on the underside and are subspecies Satyrium alcestis oslari (Dyar). The nominate race prevails elsewhere in or state. Satyrium alcestis seems curiously absent from south-central New Mexico (counties: DA,Lu,Ot,Si). Comments. University of Kansas Professor Francis Huntington Snow was the first to document this butterfly in New Mexico; he found it at Little Walnut Creek north of Silver City (Gr) in August 1884. This species resided for many years in its own genus: Phaeostrymon.
Satyrium (Satyrium) liparops (Le Conte) Striped Hairstreak (updated January 1, 2021)
Description. Striped Hairstreak resembles Banded Hairstreak but with an extra pair of white-edged ventral bands; the area between the white edges is dark. The false head at hindwing anal angle has two orange spots on either side of an orange-hatted blue spot. Range and Habitat. Striped Hairstreaks live in North America’s eastern woodlands and northern Great Plains. They also occur southwestward along the Rocky Mountains edging slightly into north-central New Mexico (counties: RA,Un), where they inhabit cherry-choked canyons and hillsides, 6500 to 8500′ elevation. Life History. Eastern US hosts for Satyrium liparops are various broadleaf trees. New Mexico colonies use native chokecherries, or ‘capulin’ in colloquial Spanish. Oviposition is reported on Prunus americana and Prunus virginiana (Rosaceae). Flight. Our few confirmed reports indicate a flight period of at least June 22 to July 11. Adults stay near the host, perch on its leaves and nectar at nearby flowers. Look for it in thickets of the host. Comments. Mike Fisher found our first Striped Hairstreak at Tollgate Canyon (Un) on 22 June 1990. A second colony was found at the Humphries Wildlife Management Area west of Chama (RA), where a permit from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish is required for access. We have subspecies Satyrium liparops strigosa (T. Harris). Many canyons in the mountains of northern New Mexico bear the name ‘Capulin’, tempting butterflyers to look for additional colonies of this distinctive butterfly.
Satyrium (Satyrium) calanus (Hübner) Banded Hairstreak (updated January 2, 2021)
Description. Banded Hairstreaks have a dark gray underside, aging to brown, with a pair of white-edged postmedian bands. A false head at the hindwing anal angle includes orange spots, a blue spot and a tail. Range and Habitat. Banded Hairstreaks range from Texas and North Dakota to the Atlantic Ocean. A disjunct population in the southern Rockies includes north-central New Mexico (counties: Be,Co,LA,Mo,RA,Sv,SM,SF,Ta,Un). Our populations live in Transition Zone oak groves, 6500 to 9500′ elevation. Life History. Here, larvae eat Gambel’s oak (Quercus gambelii; Fagaceae). Other oak species are used elsewhere. Eggs are placed in mid-summer and then diapause through winter; larvae hatch in spring and eat new growth. Flight. Banded Hairstreaks are univoltine with adults on the wing in mid-summer. New Mexico records span June 7 to September 7, with most in July. Males perch on oaks; both sexes come to nectar. Comments. Rocky Mountain populations are Satyrium calanus godarti (W. D. Field). The Sandia Mountains east of Albuquerque host the southernmost colony of this beautiful little Rocky Mountain hairstreak.
Satyrium (Satyrium) sylvinus (Boisduval) Sylvan Hairstreak (updated January 2, 2020)
Description. Satyrium sylvinus is pale silver-gray below with a postmedian row of small black spots. A false head at the anal angle has orange and blue spots and a stubby tail. Above, males are dark brown and females are tawny. Range and Habitat. Sylvan Hairstreaks live from British Columbia south to Baja California and east to Arizona and the Rocky Mountains. In New Mexico it is found in foothills of our north-central and northwest mountain ranges (counties: Ca,Co,MK,RA,Sv,SJ,SM?,SF,Ta). It is essentially restricted to streamside and acequia habitats with stands of the larval host, usually 5800 to 8000′ elevation. Life History. Larvae eat leaves of willows (Salicaceae). Coyote willow (Salix exigua), whether along a natural stream or an irrigation ditch, is strongly favored in New Mexico. Ova overwinter. Flight. Sylvan Hairstreak is univoltine with adults in mid-summer, usually between July 4 and August 20. Adults perch on willows and nectar at nearby flowers such as thistle, dogbane or milkweed. Comments. Our populations belong to subspecies Satyrium sylvinus putnami (Hy. Edwards). Old museum specimens of Satyrium sylvinus labelled merely “High Rolls” (Ot) are considered to be inaccurately labeled because there are no confirmed modern records from the Sacramento Mountains.