Gray hairstreak

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The gray hairstreak (Strymon melinus) is a member of the Lycaenidae family, known as the gossamer-winged butterflies and is also the second-largest family of butterflies. It is one of the most common hairstreaks in North America, ranging over nearly the entire continent. It occurs also throughout Central America and in northern South America.

Gray hairstreak

Secure (NatureServe)[1]
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Lycaenidae
Genus: Strymon
S. melinus
Binomial name
Strymon melinus
Hübner (1818)

Thecla melinus[2]

General DescriptionEdit

The gray hairstreak is a fairly small butterfly, measuring to around 2.2 to 3.5 cm. The underside of the gray hairstreak's wings are an ash-gray color throughout and are bordered with a white line along the edges. Also lining the wings, are a line of black spots and another line of orange and white spots. There are also orange spots that are found on the ends of their hind-wings as well as one being found on its head, in-between the eyes. The upper-side of the butterfly's wings are more of a grayish-indigo coloration with similar patterning as the underside with the exception of the lines of black spots and orange and white spots.[citation needed]

S. melinus on brambleberries in Los Angeles County, California

The gray hairstreak also has the signature set of "tails" on their hind-wings that they may wriggle around to imitate their antennae and their head when a predator is present so that if the predator would strike at them, they would strike at their hind-wings rather than their head and they would be able to make an escape.[citation needed]

A gray hairstreak feeding on a flower

The larvae of these butterflies are short and round and range in a fairly wide array of colors, being found as having a bright green coloration to a more subdued brownish-pink coloration. They can sometimes be attended by ants.[3]


The gray hairstreak butterfly is very widespread throughout the Americas, being found in many different regions. They can range from Southern Canada to Central America and Northwestern South America, living almost anywhere in-between the west and the east coasts. They can also live in a large range of elevations, living to up to 2745 meters in elevation.[4]


The gray hairstreak, as it is so widespread, doesn't really have a particularly specific preference for any habitats that they could possibly live within. They can be found in many different types of habitats, ranging from tropical forests and mountains to temperate woodland areas and meadows. While these butterflies typically would live in a more natural, untouched habitat, they're also commonly found living in suburban and even agricultural areas, comfortably making a home out of roadsides, backyards, and our gardens.[5]

Food SourceEdit

Caterpillar Host PlantsEdit

The caterpillars of the gray hairstreak butterfly are just as content with a wide range of food plants as they are with their choices of habitats to reside in, however they do mainly use mallows and legumes as their preferred host plant. They commonly use clovers as their food plant as well, eating rabbit-foot clover (Trifolium arvense), white clover (T. repens), bush clover (Lespedeza capitata), white sweet-clover (Melilotis alba), and Malva neglecta. Young caterpillars are typically found eating flowers and fruiting bodies of their host plant while the older caterpillars eat the leaves.[6]


  1. ^ "NatureServe Explorer 2.0 Strymon melinus Gray Hairstreak". Retrieved 3 October 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ "Butterflies of Mexico, USA & Canada: Gray Hairstreak". Learn About Butterflies. Retrieved May 10, 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ "Species Strymon melinus - Gray Hairstreak - Hodges#4336". Retrieved 2020-12-04.
  4. ^ "Gray Hairstreak (Mt. Diablo Butterflies) · iNaturalist". iNaturalist. Retrieved 2020-12-04.
  5. ^ "Gray Hairstreak (Mt. Diablo Butterflies) · iNaturalist". iNaturalist. Retrieved 2020-12-04.
  6. ^ "Gray Hairstreak". Retrieved 2020-12-04.

External linksEdit