Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak, STRYMON ISTAPA

from the March 11, 2012 Newsletter issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán, MÉXICO

A norte passed through here early this week, a "cold front" that up North stirred up lots of storms and dumped plenty of rain and snow. On Tuesday morning here it was chillier than it had been for a long time, about 55° F (13° C), and maybe that's why on the Common Rue plant outside my door a small, grayish butterfly sat unmoving, as if stunned by the cold. A quick glance discovered him to be a hairstreak. There are many hairstreak species, however, so I looked more closely, and by golly he did look a little different from others I've seen. He's sitting on his Rue leaf at the top of this page.

You recognize this as a hairstreak because of his small size, his basic gray color, the "eyespot" at the back, and the "hair" projecting backward, arising near the eyespot. To a predator this combination of eyespot and "hair" may look like an eye with its adjacent antenna, thus causing the predator to attack the rear end instead of the more critical front. Often hairstreaks wiggle their "hairs" as if they were probing antennae.

Volunteer identifier Bea in Ontario pegs our Rue-perching butterfly as the Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak, STRYMON ISTAPA, apparently a relatively common species from Brazil north to the southern US border states. He lives in open, disturbed areas and second growth and his caterpillars eat members of the Hibiscus Family, which are abundant here.