Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Hunt for the Juniper Hairstreak

Callophrys gryneus gryneus, the eastern subspecies of the Juniper Hairstreak, is considered to be rare, but if you search in the proper habitat and on the right host plant – Eastern Red Cedar – during its flight season from late May until June, you just might be lucky enough to stumble across this elusive little butterfly.

The insect below was photographed perching on Eastern Red Cedar, one of several in a stand at a high and dry field about 1.5 km west of Tweed. I scoured the same location in vain last year and had pretty much given up hope on ever seeing a Juniper Hairstreak, but when a friend produced a photo of one he encountered a couple of days ago near this area the hunt was on again.

It seems that last June I was looking far too low; the butterflies prefer to perch on twigs and branches that are about eight to ten feet above the ground. A helpful technique that works very well is a suggestion in the Peterson's Field Guide to Eastern Butterflies – try gently tapping the junipers with a long stick to startle the Juniper Hairstreaks into flight. We observed at least three, possibly four, individual insects, and on a couple of occasions saw males engaged territorial disputes. The image below is the only one I could get but it's good enough for now, and next on my agenda ... a photo of a mating pair ...