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Meet the Colorado State Insect – The Colorado Hairstreak Butterfly

On April 17, 1996 the Colorado Hairstreak Butterfly was officially named the Colorado State insect.  Overcoming a last minute bid to be replaced by the honey bee, the effort to have the Colorado Hairstreak Butterfly named as the state insect was an effort headed by 4th grade teacher Melinda Terry and her students from Aurora, Colorado and later became a statewide project for many 4th grade classes.  With the bill officially signed, Colorado became the 37th state to name an official state insect/butterfly.

The Colorado Hairstreak has a wing span of roughly 1.2-2 inches in width.  Wing patterns are a vibrant purple widely trimmed in black with orange patches around portions of the exterior edge on the topside and a predominantly blue-gray underside.  The hind wings exhibit characteristic tails.  Unlike many butterflies, the Colorado Hairstreak feeds on tree sap, rain droplets and possibly honeydew from aphids.  Most common to areas of scrub oak, gambel oak in particular, and some woodland oaks the Colorado Hairstreak can be found as far west as portions of Nevada and north to portions of Wyoming.  They are also commonly found throughout Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.

Colorado Hairstreak rest and breed among the gambel oak where females then lay singularly placed eggs among the twigs and foliage of the trees.  As in many other insect and animal species, males display more vibrant coloring than females.  Adult Colorado Hairstreaks make a single flight each year between June and August.  Eggs overwinter before hatching in the spring into caterpillars which feed on the gambel oak leaves.  Caterpillars pupate in late spring and emerge in early summer.