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Great Purple Hairstreak
Copyright by: Paul M. Strauss, 2019. In habitat at Teague Hammock Preserve in St. Lucie County, Florida.
Small butterfly with a wingspan measuring up to two inches. The upperside of the wings in the male is iridescent blue with wide black borders; the upperside of the wings in the female is black with dusty blue scaling at the bases of the wings. The underside of the hindwing on both is dull black or brown with one short and one long black tail. There are red basal spots on the underside of both forewings and hindwings, white and yellow spots on the margins of the hindwings at the bases of the tails, and an iridescent turquoise patch on the underside of the forewing. The upperside of the abdomen is blue and the underside is orange. The small, sluglike caterpillar is bright green with a dense covering of short orange hairs. The pupa is dark brown with black mottling.
Southern U.S., north to New York, west to California, and south to Guatemala.
Distribution and Abundance in Florida:
Uncommon to common in West Florida February-early March; uncommon to common all year in North Florida and Central Florida; not present in South Florida or the Keys. Caterpillars are present from February through early November.
Sandhills, hammocks, edges of moist woodlands and open areas.
Multiple broods per year. The whitish, flattened eggs are laid singly or in small groups on the upperside of host plant leaf tips. Full-grown larvae pupate in crevices at the base of the host tree, under bark, or in nearby structures.
Although the common name of this species is great purple hairstreak, there is no purple on this butterfly. Their flight is rapid and erratic. Adults spend most of their time in the canopy of trees that contain mistletoe. Males perch there in the afternoon, waiting for females. Pupae may be parasitized by parasitic wasp larvae or tachinid fly larvae; adults of these species then emerge from the pupal case instead of the butterfly.
Larval host plants include the native oak mistletoe (Phoradendron leucarpum) and mahogany mistletoe (Phoradendron rubrum). Adults nectar on flowers, including native goldenrods (Solidago spp.), Hercules'-club (Zanthoxylum clava-herculis), coastal sweetpepperbush (Clethra alnifolia) and American plum (Prunus americana). Weedy native nectar plants include Spanish-needles (Bidens alba var. radiata).