On January 23rd I was warming up by a roaring fire in the living room after working outside in the 30 degree weather. A gray hairstreak butterfly landed on my MacBook Pro computer right beside the logo. It took a minute to get my camera out of my pocket and it flew off just as I was focused on it. To my greater surprise it returned a minute later landing on the chair arm right by my hand and waited patiently for the camera.
They spend winter as a pupa and I suspect it was in the house with the many treasures we drag in for the 5th grade WOLF Classes to examine. An example of one of these has been lichen covering branches like this which would easily hide a small pupa. It must have been in the house somewhere and responded to the warmth with confusion.
The gray hairstreak (Strymon melinus) is less than 1/3rd the size of a monarch butterfly. It is found through all of the continental US and laps over the Canadian and Mexican borders into Central and South America. It lives in a broad range of habitats from mountainous terrain, woodlands and meadows to tropical forests.
As you might expect from its wide range, BAMONA describes a broad range of nectar sources for the adult and an equally broad variety of caterpillar host plants. Eggs are laid singly on flowers of the host plant. Young caterpillars feed on flowers and fruits; older ones may eat leaves. According to Wikipedia:
"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."
|Hairy Cat - Bob Barber -CC|
|With ant - Michael H. Schmidt|
The caterpillars are cute little hairy critters. According to Bugguide they are sometimes found with ants which collect a a sugary solution from the caterpillar's dorsal nectary organ, similar to aphids.
That is a lot on a little January butterfly but since it won't survive the winter and have a chance to breed, I thought it was the least I could do in its memory.
(Note to self: Must get out more, too much news and COVID reports)