Home / Gossamer-Winged (Lycaenidae) / Great Purple Hairstreak (Atlides halesus)

Great Purple Hairstreak (Atlides halesus)

The Great Purple Hairstreak, scientifically recognized as Atlides halesus, stands out as one of the mesmerizing species among the gossamer-winged butterflies found across various regions of the United States. Renowned for its striking purple and blue shades, this butterfly embodies the beauty of nature’s palette. Also known by the name Great Blue Hairstreak, it captures the attention of both enthusiasts and researchers due to its unique characteristics and vibrant colors.

Great Purple Hairstreak

Great Purple Hairstreak

Scientific Classification

  • Family: Lycaenidae
  • Genus: Atlides
  • Scientific Name: Atlides halesus


This butterfly species thrives in the warm temperate and subtropical regions of North America, extending its habitat from the northern parts of the United States all the way south to the Panama Canal. Its presence in diverse environments like mesquite forests, oak woods, and mixed woods with mistletoe plantations reflects its adaptability and ecological significance. The Great Purple Hairstreak plays a vital role in pollination, contributing to the health and propagation of various plant species.

Description and Identification


The early stage of the Great Purple Hairstreak features caterpillars with a green body, adorned with light, fine, and short orange or yellow hairs. A distinctive white diamond spot located behind their head serves as a unique identification mark.


Transitioning into the pupa stage, it adopts a dark brown color speckled with black spots, preparing for its metamorphosis into an adult butterfly.

Adult Butterfly

Sexual Dimorphism: This species exhibits sexual dimorphism, where males and females differ in their coloration and appearance, especially during flight.

Color and Appearance: Adults showcase a dusky purple underside and an iridescent blue with a velvety black border on the upper side of their wings. The wings, when open, reveal a stunning blue hue complemented by gold and bright red markings. The closed wings display a subtle dusky purple shade.

Great Purple Hairstreak ButterflyAtlides HalesusAverage Wingspan: The wingspan ranges from 32 to 51mm (1 ¼ to 2 inches), allowing for a noticeable presence in their natural habitat.

Flight Pattern: Demonstrating an active lifestyle, the Great Purple Hairstreak engages in three distinct flights from March through December, showcasing its agility and vibrant colors.


The eggs are characterized by their small, green disc-like appearance, marking the beginning of a new lifecycle.

Quick Facts

DistributionFound throughout the United States, spanning warm temperate to subtropical regions of North America, down to the Panama Canal.
HabitatPrefers mesquite forests, oak woods, walnut plantations in suburban or agricultural areas, and mixed woods with mistletoe.
Lifespan of AdultsRanges from 4 to 10 days.
Host PlantsPrimarily relies on American Mistletoe for larval development.
Adult DietFeeds on nectar from flowers such as shepherd’s needle, Hercules club, wild plum, golden rod, and sweet pepper brush.

How to Identify Great Purple Hairstreak?

Identifying the Great Purple Hairstreak can be a delightful experience, given its distinctive colors and patterns. Look for butterflies with a vibrant blue and black bordered upper wing surface, especially if spotted in mesquite forests or oak woods. The presence of gold and bright red markings further confirms its identity. Observing the subtle yet beautiful dusky purple underside when the wings are closed can also help in identification. During flight, males display a more vivid coloration compared to females, a characteristic derived from sexual dimorphism. Paying attention to these details, along with the butterfly’s active flight pattern between March and December, will aid in recognizing this exquisite species.

Did You Know?

  • In a historical gesture of goodwill and fascination, the Colony of Virginia sent specimens of this species to Europe during the time of the United States’ Declaration of Independence, showcasing the diverse natural heritage of the new nation.
  • Despite their vibrant coloration, the adult lifespan of the Great Purple Hairstreak is relatively short, ranging from just 4 to 10 days, emphasizing the ephemeral nature of their beauty.


The Great Purple Hairstreak butterfly is not only a symbol of natural beauty with its dazzling colors but also plays a significant role in the pollination process. Its adaptation to various habitats across the United States and southern North America highlights its ecological importance. Whether you are a butterfly enthusiast or a casual observer, the Great Purple Hairstreak offers a glimpse into the intricate balance of nature’s ecosystems.

Great Purple Hairstreak Pictures

Great Purple Hairstreak Butterfly Images
Great Purple Hairstreak Host Plant
The Great Purple Hairstreak

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Scientific Classification

  • Family: Lycaenidae
  • Genus: Atlides
  • Scientific Name: Atlides halesus
Published by Poppy Glendening on June 10, 2019.
Last Updated: March 8, 2024. ✅ Verified by: Butterfly Team