One of the most common butterflies you are likely to see in your backyard is the gray hairstreak. Although this small (1-1.5″) butterfly is predominantly gray, I think it possesses its own form of subtle beauty.
It has been my experience that you will rarely spot this butterfly with its wings spread open. If you do, however, its wings will be colored slate gray. This most distinguishing feature displayed on each hindwing is an eyespot consisting of a black dot surrounded by an elongated orange splotch…
To me, the butterfly is far more beautiful when viewed with its wings closed. The underside of each hindwing is light gray and also marked with an orange and red eye spot. However, you will quickly see notice a white line bordered in black meandering across both the hind and forewing.
Each hindwing features a short, slender hairlike appendage. If you look closely, you will see the butterfly moving their wings back and forth. It is thought that the eyespots and constantly moving “hairs” on the tail are designed to confuse predators. Supposedly, a predator will strike at the butterfly’s hindwings instead of dealing a deadly blow to its head and body.
The first flight of the hairstreak appears in February. The last gray hairstreaks of the year are spotted in early November.
The gray hairstreak has a number of plant hosts including partridge pea, beggarweed, bush clover, and vetch.