Great Purple Hairstreak; Great Blue Hairstreak Atlides halesus (Cramer) (Insecta: Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae)
view on EDIS

How to Cite

Hall, Don. 2021. “Great Purple Hairstreak; Great Blue Hairstreak Atlides Halesus (Cramer) (Insecta: Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae)”. EDIS 2021 (2).


The great purple hairstreak, Atlides halesus (Cramer), is one of our most beautiful and fascinating southern butterflies. Although its preferred and most frequently used common name is great purple hairstreak (Miller 1992), it does not have any true purple coloring on it. A few publications (Gerberg & Arnett 1989, Emmel 1975, Pyle 1981) use the name great blue hairstreak which is more appropriate.

How Atlides halesus came to be known as the great purple hairstreak is a mystery. Pyle (1981) described the female as being purplish-gray below, and Evans (2008) mentioned that that the undersides of the wings have a purplish sheen. Cech and Tudor (2005) stated that the female fades to brownish purple with wear. A humorous tongue-in-cheek explanation for the name great purple hairstreak is given by Kipperling (2013).
view on EDIS


Allen TJ. 1997. The Butterflies of West Virginia and Their Caterpillars. University of Pittsburgh Press. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 388 pp.

Borror DJ. 1960. Dictionary of Word Roots and Combining Forms. Mayfield Publishing. Palo Alto, California. 134 pp.

Brown F. 1941. Some notes on four primary reference works for Lepidoptera. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 34(1): 127-138.

Burks BD. 1940. Revision of the chalcid-flies of the tribe Chalcidini in America north of Mexico. Proceedings of the United States National Museum 88(3082): 237-354.

Cech R, Tudor G. 2005. Butterflies of the East Coast: An Observer's Guide. Princeton University Press. Princeton, New Jersey. 345 pp.

Coder KD. 2008. American Mistletoe (Phoradendron serotinum var. serotinum) Infection in Trees. Tree Health Series. Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. University of Georgia. Athens, Georgia. 36 pp.

Downey JC, Allyn AC. 1973. Butterfly ultrastructure. 1. Sound production and associated abdominal structures in pupae of Lycaenidae and Riodinidae. Bulletin of the Allyn Museum. No. 14. The Allyn Museum of Entomology. Sarasota, Florida. 47 pp. 2017. Phoradendron leucarpum (Rafinesque) Reveal & M. C. Johnston. Flora of North America. Vol. 12, no. 6. ( (Accessed May 10, 2019)

Emmel TC. 1975. Genus ATLIDES Hübner. In: Howe WH. The Butterflies of North America. Doubleday. Garden City, New York. 633 pp.

Evens ZN, Stellpflug SJ. 2012. Holiday plants with toxic misconceptions. Western Journal of Emergency Medicine 8(6): 538-542.

Evans AV. 2008. Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America. Sterling Publishing. New York, New York. 497 pp.

Gerberg EJ, Arnett RH. 1989. Florida Butterflies. National Science Publications, Inc. Baltimore, Maryland.

Gledhill D. 1989. The Names of Plants. 2nd Ed. Cambridge University Press. New York, New York. 202 pp.

Hall AH, Spoerke DG, Rumack BH. 1986. Assessing mistletoe toxicity. Annals of Emergency Medicine 15: 1320-1323.

Haskin JR. 1933. Thecla halesus, its life cycle and habits. Entomological News 44:72-74.

Hutton K. 2010. A comparative study of the plants used for medicinal purposes by the Creek and Seminole Tribes. M.S. thesis. University of South Florida. Tampa, Florida. 150 pp. ( (Accessed May 10, 2019)

Krenzelok EP, Jacobsen TD, Aronis J. 1997. American mistletoe exposures. American Journal of Emergency Medicine 15: 516-520.

Kuijt J. 1982. The Viscaceae in the southeastern United States. Journal of the Arnold Arboretum 63: 401-410.

Martins ARP, Duarte M, Robbin RK. 2018 (25 September). Hairstreak butterflies (Lepidoptera, Lycaenidae) and evolution of their male secondary sexual organs. Cladistics 1-25. (Accessed May 10, 2019)

Miller JY (ed). 1992. The Common Names of North American Butterflies. Smithsonian Institution Press. Washington, D.C. 177 pp.

Minno MC, Butler JF, Hall DW. 2005. Florida Butterfly Caterpillars and their Host Plants. University Press of Florida. Gainesville, Florida. 341 pp.

Minno MC, Minno M. 1999. Florida Butterfly Gardening. University Press of Florida. Gainesville, Florida. 210 pp.

Moerman DE. 2009. Native American Medicinal Plants: An Ethnobotanical Dictionary. Timber Press. Portland, Oregon. 799 pp.

Moth Photographers Group. Undated. "Large Map and Chart" link. (Accessed May 10, 2019)

Opler PA, Krizek GO. 1984. Butterflies East of the Great Plains. Johns Hopkins University Press. Baltimore, Maryland. 294 pp.

Pegram KV, Rutowski RL. 2014. Relative effectiveness of blue and orange warning colours in the contexts of innate avoidance, learning and generalization. Animal Behaviour 92: 1-8.

Plants Database. 2019. Natural Resources Conservation Service. United States Department of Agriculture. (Accessed May 10, 2019)

Pyle RM. 1981. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. Alfred E. Knopf. New York, New York. 916 pp.

Rosell S, Samuelsson G. 1966. Effect of mistletoe viscotoxin and phoratoxin on blood circulation. Toxicon 4(2): 107-110.

Samuelsson G, Ekblad M. 1967. Isolation and properties of phoratoxin, a toxic protein from Phoradendron serotinum (Loranthaceae). Acta Chemica Scandinavica 21: 849-956.

Scharpf RF, Hawksworth FG. 1974. Mistletoes on hardwoods in the United States. Forest Pest Leaflet 147. Forest Service, United States Department of Agriculture. 7 pp.

Scott JA. 1986. The Butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press. Stanford, CA. 583 pp.

Scudder SH. 1876. Synonymic list of the butterflies of North America, north of Mexico. Bulletin of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences 3: 98-129.

Smith DS, Miller LD, Miller JY. 1994. The butterflies of the West Indies and south Florida. Oxford University Press. New York, New York. 264 pp.

Sourakov A. 2013. Two heads are better than one: False head allows Calycopis cecrops (Lycaenidae) to escape predation by a jumping spider, Phidippus pulcherrimus (Salticidae). Journal of Natural History 47: 1047-1054.

Sourakov A. 2017. Great Purple Hairstreak Atlides halesus (Lycaenidae: Theclinae) feeds on goldenrod at UF Natural Area Teaching Laboratory (NATL). ( (Accessed August 13, 2019)

Spooner DM. 1983. The northern range of eastern mistletoe, Phoradendron serotinum (Viscaceae), and its status in Ohio. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 110(4): 489-493.

Whittaker PL. 1984a. Population biology of the great purple hairstreak, Atlides halesus, in Texas (Lycaenidae). Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 38(3): 179-185.

Whittaker PL. 1984b. The Insect Fauna of Mistletoe (Phoradendron tomentosum, Loranthaceae) in Southern Texas. The Southwestern Naturalist 29(4): 435-444.

Winkler VT. 1977. Ein Zipfelfalter (Atlides halesus Cramer 1779*) mit Pseudokopf (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae, Theclinae). Zoologischer Anzeiger 198(1-2): 31-35.

Wunderlin, RP, Hansen BF, Franck AR, Essig FB. 2019. Atlas of Florida Plants. Institute for Systematic Botany, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida. (Accessed May 10, 2019)

York HH. 1909. The Anatomy and Some of the Biological Aspects of the "American Mistletoe" Phoradendron flavescens (Pursh) Nutt. Bulletin of the University of Texas Scientific Series No. 13, Number 120. Austin, Texas.

Copyright (c) 2021 UF/IFAS