Satyrium kingi (Klots and Clench, 1952)
NatureServe Global Rank: G3G4
Virginia State Rank: S2
VA DGIF Tier: IV
Federal Legal Status: None
Virginia Legal Status: None
Description: The dorsal side of the King's Hairstreak is dark gray to brown and relatively bland. The trailing edge of the dorsal hind wing (near the tails) has a dark line edged in white as do the tails; dark areas may be present near these. The ventral side of the wings is usually the surface that is displayed and contains all of the distinguishing characteristics. The base color of the ventral wings is a lighter gray than the dorsal side, and there are multiple groups of parallel white lines that enclose darker gray areas. Occasionally these dark areas will be red-frosted. The trailing edge of the ventral hind wing has a blue-gray patch that is lined by a red 'cap' towards the base of the wing. Another larger red cap lines a black spot immediately next to the blue spot, and smaller red markings exist next to the black ones along the edge of the wing, often continuing onto the front wing.
Similar species: This species is easily confused with a number of other Hairstreak species and the ventral surface holds the key characteristics. The Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus) is a much lighter gray on the ventral wing surface and is easily distinguished from the others. The Red-Banded Hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops) has very apparent red bands bisecting both wings about one third the distance from the outer edge of the ventral surface of both wings and is markedly smaller in size. Most other Satyrium Hairstreaks can be separated by the absence of the blue-gray patch, or if they have it by the absence of the red cap that immediately lines it. After ruling these out, the Edwards Hairstreak (S. edwardsii) is easily distinguished based on the more dotted appearance of markings on both wings and the very small red cap. Most similar is the Striped Hairstreak which can be separated by the much more widely spaced white lines on both wings.
North American Range: The King's Hairstreak is found from coastal Delaware down to Florida and as far west as Texas. The population within this range is generally reported as being small and dependent on availability of the host plant.
VA Observations by Locality: Chesapeake, City of | New Kent | Norfolk, City of | Suffolk, City of | Virginia Beach, City of | Chesapeake, City of | Isle of Wight | Virginia Beach, City of
Flight season and broods: The King's Hairstreak features only one brood with a very short flight season from early May to the end of June, usually just a few weeks in a given location.
Habitat and Food Plants: Part of the conservation concern with this species surrounds the limited availability of its host plant, the Sweetleaf (Symplocos tinctoria). This plant can only live in the well-developed understory of stream-side forests.
Behavior and Ecology: The females lay eggs on the ends of the Sweetleaf twigs because the caterpillars will only consume the leaves. The adults are known to feed on the nectar of Sourwood trees, Ceanothus, Castanea, various heaths and other small, fragrant white flowers.
Population trend and potential threats: This species is very colonial but can be common where found. Many known colonies display a degree of isolation from others.
Management practices: The areas in Virginia where small populations are found are being monitored. It has been reported that they will use Flame Azalea (Rhodendron calendulaceum) in captivity as a host plant which is a common landscape plant in the Southeast. Increased plantings of Flame Azalea and Sweetleaf could allow for more habitat options for the King's Hairstreak.
References: Cech, R. and G. Tudor. 2005. Butterflies of the East Coast. Pg. 116. Princeton University Press
LeGrand, H. E and T.E. Howard. 2002. Notes on the Butterflies of North Carolina. http://www.ncparks.net/butterfly/nbnc.html
Opler, P. A. and V. Malikul. 1999. Eastern Butterflies. Pg. 106. Houghton Mifflin Publishing.
Pyle, R. M. 1981. Field Guide to North American Butterflies. National Audubon Society.
Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Natural Heritage Program, 600 E. Main St., 24th Floor, Richmond, VA 23219
This atlas was compiled
by the VA Natural Heritage Program with funds provided by the VA Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries through a state wildlife grant
from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Last Modified: Friday, 26 February 2021, 03:21:56 PM