A month ago, my friend, Lisa Tannenbaum, commented on Facebook that we were nearing the end of the season for seeing Sandia hairstreaks, New Mexico’s official State Butterfly. Lisa is the state’s unofficial ambassador for the Sandia hairstreak. I decided to seize the opportunity and try my luck. So, one Friday noon in late March, I drove out to the Embudo Canyon trailhead at the end of Indian School Road and started out on one of the many dirt trails there, looking for the beargrass the hairstreak lives on. I hadn’t gone 20 feet before this hairstreak – about the size of a nickel – flew across the trail and kindly alighted on some dry grass, proceeding to turn, pose, pause for a dozen photos. Then, off it went. Thank you, Universe, I love you, too.
The Sandia Hairstreak, scientific name Callophrys mcfarlandi (or Sandia mcfarlandi) is a species of butterfly native to North America. A relatively rare butterfly with a limited range, it was discovered in La Cueva Canyon, Albuquerque in 1959 by "a 4-H kid" and described the following year. The Sandia Hairstreak was made one of the state insects of New Mexico in a 2002 bill approved the following year.
Wing span: 1 1/8 – 1 1/4 inches (2.9 – 3.2 cm).
Identification: Tailless. Upperside of male is brown; female is reddish brown with a narrow black border. Underside yellow-green; white postmedian line bordered with black toward the wing base.
Life history: Eggs are laid on flower stalks of the host plant. Caterpillars feed on flowers and fruits.
Flight: Two flights from May-June.