A week or so ago, I visited a place I seldom see, Erie Sand Barrens State Nature Preserve in Erie County, Ohio, which is not far inland from Lake Erie. The place abounds with biodiversity, including many rarities, especially plants. It was there I was finally able to photograph a very unusual feature of a common butterfly, as follows...
Perhaps most interesting is the aft end. A peculiar pair of pseudo-antennae jut from the hindwings like tails. These appendages are the trademark of most, but not all, hairstreaks. Just forward of the "tails" are colored marks that often resemble eyes. The theory for these adornments, it is often said, is to create the effect of a false face. The overall effect is reinforced by the butterfly's habit of constantly rubbing its hind wings together, thus wriggling its "antennae". I buy into this premise as it's common to see hairstreaks with a v-shaped chunk snapped out of the rear wings - the work of predatory birds who were duped. The bird ends up with a bit of scaly wing; the butterfly escapes.
A few years ago, I was in the field in Adams County with John Howard, and he showed me an amazing video he made of a gray hairstreak. It was taken from a rear perspective and showed well the butterfly as it moved its pseudo face. The overall effect was remarkable, and ever since I've been trying to photograph this look. It isn't easy to capture in a still photo and I've bungled many a shot.
Until last week.
Does this miniature monster create a visual deterrent to predators? Who knows, but one must ponder why the gray hairstreak would have evolved such a fabulous architecture.