Atlides halesus corcorani

Great Purple Hairstreak

Large - for a hairstreak - and featuring brilliant metallic blue, light green, red and orange set against black. The white spots against the black of the head and thorax remind one of a monarch's coloration. Atlides halesus corcorani is a spectacular member of a tropical group of butterflies that is like nothing else in southern California. Other members of the genus Atlides - there are about 17 - are more or less similar to halesus, but only the latter ranges north into the U.S. Not particularly rare, it uses many species of mistletoe and can be found in a variety of places, but it's always a head-turner when spotted. I've seen it sporatically in places such as Big Rock Creek in the San Gabriels in the fall; along Cactus Spring Trail (not reliably) in spring; and Anza-Borrego (Plum Canyon, also spring).

In the deserts around Junipers, look for Phoradendron densum and there's a chance the butterfly will be in the area, perhaps on flowers nectaring. Where mesquite, catclaw, etc. grow, the mistletoe will probably be Phoradendron californicum. Another is Phoradendron macrophyllum, on Cottonwood, Willow and Sycamore trees. It flies much of the year.

Atlides halesus corcorani - Great Purple Hairstreak
This male Atlides halesus corcorani was nectaring on California Buckwheat on June 3, 2017 at Cactus Spring Trail.
Atlides halesus corcorani - Great Purple Hairstreak
Male Great Purple Hairstreak, Atlides halesus corcorani, surely one our most exotic-looking butterflies in California. This one was nectaring on Desert Lavendar in Plum Canyon, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. October 3, 2005. Males have blue scaling on the ventral forewing, barely visible here, that females lack.
Photo of Atlides halesus corcorani - Great Purple Hairstreak
I found this one roadside in the Valyermo area, where the desert meets the San Gabriel Mountains. September 11, 2008. The roadsides there are good places to look for this species.
Atlides halesus corcorani - Great Purple Hairstreak
Female Great Purple Hairstreak from Arizona - Boyce Thompson Arboretum, September 25, 2007. Note the lack of blue scales on the forewing.
Atlides halesus corcorani - Great Purple Hairstreak
Another female. This time, I was on Kelbaker Road in the Mojave National Reserve near Granite Pass. October 7, 2019.
Atlides halesus corcorani - Great Purple Hairstreak
The hostplants for Atlides halesus corcorani are species of mistletoe. This is Phoradendron californicum on what looks like Mesquite in Anza-Borrego. March 1, 2009.
Atlides halesus corcorani - Great Purple Hairstreak
Here's a look at another host plant for this hairstreak: Phoradendron densum, which parasitizes junipers and cypresses (California Juniper in this instance).
Atlides halesus corcorani - Great Purple Hairstreak
I spotted this little Phoradendron densum near the top of this juniper along Cactus Spring Trail, and checked it for eggs of Atlides halesus corcorani - see below.
Atlides halesus corcorani - Great Purple Hairstreak
And here is an egg of Atlides halesus corcorani on a leaf of that Phoradendron densum above. May 27, 2016.

©Dennis Walker