Ruddy Hairstreak (Electrostrymon hugon) Life History

       Freshly laid egg, 2-18-09               Larval heads visible, 2-21-09

    Just-eclosed caterpillar, 2-22-09     2-24-09, on retama stem, 3 days old

2-26-09; damage from feeding visible on nearby leaves


3-7-09, late instar. To this point has reddish striping only.

3-10-09, final instar. Has green stripe down center of back.

3-11-09, one day before beginning pupation.

3-14-09, pupa fully formed, 21 days after caterpillar eclosed.

3-26-09, the recently emerged Ruddy Hairstreak.

Our lime tree flowers in February, and the blooms attract many butterflies, including Ruddy Hairstreaks. I caught a female in hopes of obtaining eggs. Through correspondence with Nick Grishin and Charles Bordelon, I knew that Richard Boscoe had reported Retama (Parkinsonia aculeata) as a host plant. Brock & Kaufman list Coral Bean (Erythrina herbacea) flowers as a potential host. So I offered these and a variety of other native plants that were in bloom.  

The hairstreak laid 4 eggs. One egg was placed in the cluster of Coral Bean flowers; the rest were not placed on plants but around the netted cage in which I kept her (see the first picture). Unfortunately, the Coral Bean flowers quickly faded, and no more were available to me, so I was not able to determine if that was a viable host. I moved all the eggs into a small container with some retama. Retama is a thorny tree with yellow flowers and tiny leaves on long "pinnae" (stems).

Three eggs eclosed on February 22 and 23. The local retama trees were nearly in bloom, so I offered flower buds along with leaves. The emerging caterpillars preferred the leaves. When blooms appeared I offered them also; the caterpillars did try the flowers, but again they appeared to prefer leaves.

The caterpillars were kept together in small, closed plastic containers. The containers were cleaned and fresh food was added each evening. I had to inspect the new fronds carefully, for spiders are common on retama here.

The eggs took 3 days to eclose; the caterpillars took about 21 days to pupate, and then another 12 days to emerge as adults. So the entire process took about 36 days. The last caterpillar actually pupated several days after the others, but emerged only one day later. All three adults were males.