Overview

Brief Summary

North American Ecology (US and Canada)

Atlides halesus are resident in patchy distribution in southwestern North America and as a second non-contiguous population in southeastern US north to New York (Scott 1986). Habitats are wooded areas mostly south of 38 degrees latitude. Host plants are largely restricted to a few species of hostplant mistletoe parasites (Loranthaceae) found on trees. Larvae eat leaves and male flowers. Individuals overwinter as pupae, at the base of the tree or under loose bark. Parasitoid wasps commonly inflict pupae. There are multiple flights each year with the approximate flight time Mar1-Nov30, all year in Florida and s. Texas (Scott 1986).
  • Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press.
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Distribution

Atlides halesus, butterflies commonly known as great purple hairstreaks, are found from Guatemala north to the southern United States. Although they have been seen as far north as Maryland and Oregon, in the interior states they generally stay below the 38th parallel.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native )

  • Scott, J. 1986. The Butterflies of North America. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
  • Tveten, J., G. Tveten. 1996. Butterflies of Houston & Southeast Texas. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press.
  • Struttman, J. 2001. "National Prairie Wildlife Research Center" (On-line). Accessed November 28, 2001 at http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/distr/lepid/bflyusa/nj/282.htm.
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occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) Across United States, largely in South; wanders north to New York, Illinois, Oregon. Also south into Mexico.

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Physical Description

Morphology

Atlides halesus are relatively large butterflies, with a wingspan ranging from 30mm to 50mm. The upper side of their wings is black with brilliant iridescent blue. Below, the wings are a purplish black color with gold iridescent markings near the tails. Atlides halesus have two tails attached to each hind wing, one shorter than the other. The underside also has red spots near the attachment to the abdomen. The abdomen is blue on top and red-orange underneath. Females are slightly larger and duller than males.

Atlides halesus larvae are green with dark green bands, yellow stripes, and a narrow green mid-dorsal line. They are also covered in short orange and green hairs.

The pupae are mottled brown and black.

Range wingspan: 30 to 50 mm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger; male more colorful

  • Milne, L., M. Milne. 1992. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc..
  • Hall, D., J. Butler. 1999. "University of Florida Department of Entomology and Nematology" (On-line). Accessed November 28, 2001 at http://creatures.ifas.ufl.edu/bfly/purple_hairstreak.htm.
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Ecology

Habitat

Atlides halesus live in wooded areas, especially those that are infested with mistletoe, Phoradendron spp.

Habitat Regions: temperate

Terrestrial Biomes: forest

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Comments: Deciduous forests, conifer flats, watersides, where larval host, mistletoe (genus Phoradendron) is found. A variety westward, mostly swamps in the east.

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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Trophic Strategy

The larvae of Atlides halesus eat only mistletoe. The younger caterpillars eat the epidermis of the leaf while the older larvae eat the entire leaf. Adults drink the nectar of various flowers in the family Asteraceae, including goldenrods and ragworts.

Plant Foods: leaves; nectar

Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore , Nectarivore )

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Associations

Adult Atlides halesus help to pollinate various flowers in the family Asteraceae. Larvae help control mistletoe populations by eating the mistletoe leaves. The pupae provide a home and food for the developing parasitoid wasps and tachinid flies.

Ecosystem Impact: pollinates; creates habitat

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Adult Atlides halesus protect themselves from predators by moving their wings up and down to draw attention to their false heads made by the tails and spots on the hind wings. Thus, if a predator attacks a butterfly by grabbing its tail, the tail will break off and the butterfly can escape.

Camouflage protects both larvae and pupae from large prey, but Atlides halesus have not developed a mechanism to protect the pupae from parasitoid wasps and tachinid flies.

Known Predators:

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Known predators

Atlides halesus is prey of:
Metadontia amoena
Apanteles

Based on studies in:
USA: Texas (Plant substrate)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • P. L. Whittaker, 1984. The insect fauna of mistletoe (Phoradendron tomentosum, Loranthaceae) in southern Texas. Southw. Nat. 29:435-444, from p. 443.
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Known prey organisms

Atlides halesus preys on:
Phoradendron tomentosum

Based on studies in:
USA: Texas (Plant substrate)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • P. L. Whittaker, 1984. The insect fauna of mistletoe (Phoradendron tomentosum, Loranthaceae) in southern Texas. Southw. Nat. 29:435-444, from p. 443.
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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

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Global Abundance

10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Atlides halesus communicate with potential mates by flapping their wings up and down while on treetops or hilltops.

Communication Channels: visual

Perception Channels: visual

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Males patrol for females (Scott, 1986).
  • Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press.
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Life Cycle

Female Atlides halesus scatter their eggs over mistletoe, Phoradendron spp. The larvae hatch and eat the mistletoe until they are fully grown. Then they journey to crevices under the bark or at the base of the host tree where they can safely pupate throughout the winter; in the spring, butterflies emerge.

Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis

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Life Expectancy

After emerging from the pupae, Atlides halesus live for about 24 days.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
24 days.

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Reproduction

Male Atlides halesus will wait on treetops or hilltops from noon to untill sundown (earlier on colder days) for a female to fly by. This mating system is called landmark based. Males will move their wings up and down to attract females. After mating, females will scatter their eggs over mistletoe, Phoradendron spp., so that the larvae will be able to eat. They breed from March through November, each female laying several broods each.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

Male Atlides halesus often return to the same treetop or hilltop for days at a time to await new mates.

Breeding season: March-November

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous

After female Atlides halesus lay their eggs it is up to the larvae to feed and protect themselves.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female)

  • Preston-Mafham, R., K. Preston-Mafham. 1993. The Encyclopedia of Land Invertebrate Behavior. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
  • Scott, J. 1986. The Butterflies of North America. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
  • Tveten, J., G. Tveten. 1996. Butterflies of Houston & Southeast Texas. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Atlides halesus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 6
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

The Nature Conservancy Global Rank gives Atlides halesus a ranking of G5, which means that the species is secure globally, although it may be rare in the periphery of its habitat range.

US Migratory Bird Act: no special status

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

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National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure

Reasons: Widespread and common.

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Threats

Degree of Threat: D : Unthreatened throughout its range, communities may be threatened in minor portions of the range or degree of variation falls within natural variation

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Management

Global Protection: Unknown whether any occurrences are appropriately protected and managed

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

None known

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None known

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Wikipedia

Great Purple Hairstreak

Resting female in Rio Grande Valley, Texas, USA

The Great Purple Hairstreak (Atlides halesus), also called the Great Blue Hairstreak, is a common gossamer-winged butterfly species in parts of the United States. It is actually a Neotropical species; its North American range only includes the warm-temperate and subtropical parts of that continent, and it ranges southwards almost to the Isthmus of Panama. The type specimen, however, was shipped to Europe from the Colony of Virginia, probably around the time of the United States Declaration of Independence.

The common names refer to the butterfly's two main colors – dusky purple on the underside, and iridescent blue above. Particularly the males are very colorful in flight – brilliant blue and velvety black, with bright red and golden markings – but when sitting down they show their inconspicuous dusky purple underside. Several subspecies are recognized.

Its caterpillar larvae feed on the mistletoe genus Phoradendron.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Great Purple Hairstreak, Atlides halesus (Cramer, 1777)". Butterflies and Moths of North America. Retrieved April 2, 2012. 
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