The Colorado hairstreak is a vibrant purple butterfly native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. It was officially declared the state insect of Colorado in 1996.
Colorado hairstreak butterflies live in mountainous shrubland and are highly dependent on the Gambel oak for survival. This tree is an important food source for Colorado hairstreak caterpillars and the adults are also often found resting among its branches. The Colorado hairstreak lays its eggs in late summer with caterpillars hatching the following spring.
Adult Colorado hairstreaks have a wingspan of one to one and a half inches with a thin tail on each back wing. This tail is what gives the species its name. Its wings are dark purple with a wide black border and orange spots on the outer edges. The underside of this butterfly's wings are gray with white and black marks and an orange patch or small spot.
While butterfly species are often threatened by habitat loss, the Colorado hairstreak is lucky enough to still be in good standing. This is because Gambel oaks are plentiful in the regions where the butterfly is found. With continued luck, the beautiful Colorado hairstreak should be around for us to enjoy for many years to come.