Gossamer wings encompass over 4,700 species worldwide. This family group includes coppers, hairstreaks and blues. They are known for their symbiotic, and at times predatory, relationship with ants. As caterpillars, gossamers excrete a sugary liquid through specialized glands that ants enjoy. In return defenseless caterpillars are protected from predators. At times, however, caterpillars will turn on their defenders and attack ant mounds.
Butterfly Spotting: As it name suggests, the upper side of the forewings of this butterfly are copper. The hindwings are gray to black with a distinctive orange band along the bottom edge. The underside is gray. Seasonal temperatures can create variations in color.
Backyard Tips: To attract the American copper to your garden try planting buttercup, butterflyweed, clover, yarrow and ox-eye daisy.
Butterfly Spotting: Small and quick, the hairstreak group of butterflies are named for their hairlike tails. The banded hairstreak is dark brown. Two rows of black dashes outlined in white decorate the underside of the hindwings.
Backyard Tip: Although the banded hairstreak prefers milkweed, other plants such as dogbane, chinquapin, dogwood, New Jersey tea, meadowsweet, staghorn sumac, white sweet clover and yarrow can also make up its menu.
Butterfly Spotting: The upper side of the gray hairstreak is slate-gray. One large red spot sits on its hindwing near the hairlike tail. The underside is gray. Along its forewings and hindwings is a dark broken band outlined in white.
Backyard Tip: This butterfly enjoys nectar from a variety of flowers and plants including dogbane, milkweed, mint, wintercress and goldenrod.
Butterfly Spotting: This petite early-spring butterfly is a member of the blues family. Summer broods and spring broods show color variations. For the male, spring coloring is a deep silvery-blue while summer butterflies are more violet-blue. Females have a coal-black border along their forewing and are slate-gray below in the spring. Summer finds the female much whiter with a black border on the forewing above and below a pale white with faint markings.
Backyard Tip: To attract spring azures to your garden try planting dogbane, privet, New Jersey tea, blackberry or milkweed.