Just the other day I noticed a flurry of activity in the hedge of tri-lobed sumac that borders the walk to our front door. Dozens of Least Skippers (Ancyloxypha numitor) were flitting about in the sunshine, but not because of the sumac; several long cucumber vines had taken advantage of the hedge and were flowering profusely in their canopy. It was these little flowers that had attracted the butterflies. Skippers are among my favorite subjects; I’ll devote a post to them in the very near future. But as I was watching their amazing acrobatics, a smaller movement caught my attention. As I looked ever more closely at the tiny, bluish butterfly that was closest to me, thinking it was one of the little blues, I could see what looked like extra legs protruding out backwards between the posterior edges of the wings and thought I was witnessing a tiny tryst, but upon closer inspection, they turned out to be tiny wing extensions, tipped by tufts of white scales.
The one I was watching was joined by one or two more in the hour or so I spent there. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of these before—which helped to lead me to the (hopefully not too far-fetched) use of “rare” in my title—and I’ve identified them as Red-Banded Hairstreaks (Calycopis cycrops). The body on each of these little beauties was about a half-inch (1.5 cm) long.