Scoop on King's Hairstreak

Ron Gatrelle gatrelle at
Fri Jun 1 17:46:11 EDT 2001

Satyrium kingi is not rare nor is it any more "local" than the majority of
butterfly species. Over the years, I have found kingi in Charleston,
Berkeley, Dorchester, Jasper, Colleton, Beaufort, Aiken and Orangeburg
counties South Carolina;   Chatham, Bryan, Effingham, Union and Fannin
counties Georgia; Liberty and Escambia counties Florida. I have often seen
kingi in the hundreds at some of these locations. I don't think there is
anyone who has any more experience with this species than I. The female
kingi figured in Howe is a specimen I sent to Heitzman from the enormous
population that once existed at what is now Snee Farm subdivision Mt.
Pleasant, Charleston, Co. SC. The specimen figured by Scott in B. of NA is
also likely one of mine.

Harry LeGrand recently stated in a post here that, "The main nectar plant
sourwood..."  This is completely false. Sourwood is not The nor main nectar
plant for this species.  It is only one of many nectar plants used and is
only a "main" in areas where kingi uses sourwood. He  also says, "They also
nectar on chinkapin, supposedly (I've not seen them on it personally)..."
This statement comes from left field. I have said several times that
Chinquapin is a favorite of all hairstreaks and that I have specifically
found kingi on this shrub. The statement also smacks of more than a little
ego for obvious reasons.

Satyrium kingi larva feed on Symplocos tinctora (Horse Sugar or Sweet
Leaf) as documented in the literature. I  have also found and reared wild
larvae from this plant. This shrubby tree will grow to about 18 to 25 feet.
It has a very interesting distribution - coastal plain and mountains, being
very rare in the upper Piedmont. This range also correlated to the two
kingi subspecies (the mountain one is undescribed). Tinctora has bright
yellow flowers in spring that are frequented by many Lepidoptera. When
tinctora occurs with Ilex opaca (White Holly) Deciduphagus henrici
(subspecies) will often be found on them - as well as the early Celastrina
taxa, Papilios, etc.

Satyrium kingi is primarily a species of secondary forest edges or
disturbed areas. It is a species that is actually helped by human
disturbance because S. tinctora does well in these types of areas. (When
the forest becomes mature tinctora is choked out). Logging and burning
provide ideal habitat for young tinctora plants which are what kingi lays
their eggs on. (Kingi does not utilize old mature plants.)  (Many years ago
Terry Arbogast and I visited the type locality site for kingi in Savannah.
The S. tinctora was still there in lanky, tall, mature trees in heavy
woods - but the kingi were long gone from the site.) Conversely, a spot in
Dorchester County, SC I collected at regularly for years and never saw even
one kingi at was logged and really torn up. I considered the spot destroyed
as the species that had been there were largely gone. Three or four years
later I returned one day to find that the few Symplocos there had greatly
spread and were now the dominate scrub - kingi were there by the hundreds.
In fact, they were about all that was there.

Chinquapin is also a shrubby tree of secondary and disturbed areas. Where
this and S. tinctora are found together in abundance (as was the case at
the Mt Pleasant site) kingi will be found by the hundreds.



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