by Leslie Cox; Saturday; August 5, 2017

Black-banded HairstreakWe had a Grey Hairstreak butterfly appear in our garden recently. This is the first one we have seen here. And yet, they are an abundant species across much of North America. Seems strange, but we are not complaining. All pollinators are welcome in this garden.

Known as Strymon melinus in the science world, it is the only Hairstreak species in Canada…ranging across the southern region of the country from British Columbia (BC) to Nova Scotia. However, the range of this butterfly species does extend much further where it is found throughout the United States, Central America, and into northern regions of South America.

Back in Canada, Strymon melinus is split into four subspecies, each with their distinctive geographical regions. Here on Vancouver Island, and in the lower mainland of BC, we have S. m. atrofasciatus, also known as the Black-banded Hairstreak. S. m. setonia, or Seton Lake Hairstreak, is found in the interior of BC in the Seton Lake region near Lillooet…hence its Latin name. S. m. franki (Frank’s Grey Hairstreak) is found throughout the lower regions across the Canadian Prairies. And finally, S. m. melinus (Grey Hairstreak…which is also sometimes referred to as S. m. humuli), is found in the southern parts of eastern Canada.

The Black-banded Hairstreak, Strymon melinus atrofasciatus, is a slate-grey colour on its upper wing side with a narrow white line on the outer edges, a distinctive series of black and white “eyespots” along the lower edge of the hind wings, and a short tail protruding from the inner edge of the hind wings. The line of eyespots are accented by two bright orange and black spots closer towards the body of the butterfly. The underside of the wings is lighter grey in colour and decorated with two bands of thin black and white dashes instead of the eyespots. At least, that is what the reference books claim. Our Hairstreak visitor had orange in its black and white dashes, as you can see in the photo. The orange and black spots are also visible on the underside of the hind wings…near the tail.

This butterfly species is not considered to be too much of a pest in the caterpillar stage as it has a wide range of food plants, although in large numbers, it may create some havoc in bean crops…a plant species it is rather fond of. The Black-banded Hairstreak in the photo is feasting on the nectar of a Veronicastrum virginicum flower…also known as Culver’s root. Now there is an interesting plant…and a topic for another blog article. Soon!