Species Spotlight – Sandia Hairstreak and Beargrass

March 13, 2022. New Mexico’s state insect, the Sandia Hairstreak butterfly, is flying again in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque.

RangeCallophrys mcfarlandi was discovered in New Mexico, a state that still encompasses nearly all of its US range. It also occurs in West Texas and south into Mexico. 

Life History. Larvae have a very restricted diet, eating only flowers and developing seeds of Texas and Woodland beargrass (Nolina texana and Nolina greenei). The similar Nolina microcarpa is widespread in New Mexico and Arizona, but it blooms in late in summer, which apparently is a deal-killer.

Left: old flower stalk of Nolina greenei; Right: hillside teeming with Beargrass

The host Beargrass species are not easy to find at nurseries, but this plant grows easily from seed. I bought seed from alplains.com and they germinated indoors before I transplanted outside in very sunny spots. Another option is to sustainably collect a small number of seeds from wild plants you encounter. They are ripe by mid-summer when the color is coppery. (Warning, they grow slowly, like related Agaves and Yuccas.)

Source for Range and Life History: Butterflies of New Mexico: The Gossamerwings II: The Hairstreaks (Lycaenidae: Theclinae) – Pajarito Environmental Education Center (peecnature.org)

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