Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

Gray Hairstreak, STRYMON MELINUS
identifying a Hairstreak with field guide and computer

from the June 9, 2008 Newsletter, issued from near Natchez, Mississippi:

Several years ago during an earlier visit with Jacky and Karen I planted a 20-ft row of garlic bulbs along the edge of their garden fence. The garden and its fence are long gone but the garlic plants keep coming back year after year. Right now their leaves are brown and dying, but each four-ft-high stem is topped with a pink, softball-size inflorescence of densely packed garlic flowers. These flowers attract butterflies and other nectar-seeking insects.

Still testing my new camera I visited the line of garlic flowers. The resulting image is at the top of this page.

That's a Gray Hairstreak, STRYMON MELINUS. And behind that name, there's a story.

For, I downloaded the image from the camera into the computer, got the image onto the laptop's screen, then in The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies I simply matched the image on the screen with pictures in the field guide, as shown second from the top. It was a great technique,  easy, and the field guide told me so much -- what the caterpillars eat, how the appearance changes from place to place, etc.

But, here's the next part of the story:

Later I was pleased to discover that the Butterflies and Moths of North America at http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org has become a very comprehensive, user-friendly website. On that site's front page I clicked on "MAP SEARCH," got a map of the US, and clicked on Mississippi. Then I was presented with a list of Mississippi's Butterflies and Moths. and the name I'd come up with using the Audubon field guide wasn't even on the list! Using the Audubon guide I'd identified it as a Northern Hairstreak, Euristrymon ontario, not the Gray Hairstreak, Strymon melinus, which I say it is above.

The deal is that since the Audubon guide was published the experts have changed around lots of names, and the Northern Hairstreak, Euristrymon ontario, now is called something else, and maybe its concept has changed.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that you need to pay attention to how old your source of information is, because the experts are learning more and more all the time and changing things around as they do.