Hairstreaks: Poling’s hairstreak (Satyrium polingi)

(Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae: Theclinae: Eumaeini)

Profile prepared by Mace Vaughan and Matthew Shepherd, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation

Poling’s hairstreak is restricted to a very small area on three isolated, “sky islands” mountain ranges—the Davis and Chisos mountains of Texas and the Organ mountains of New Mexico—and south into the state of Coahuila, Mexico. Habitat for this hairstreak is dry oak forest. Threats have not fully been evaluated but include grazing of hostplants, invasive weeds, and wildfires.

red list profile

conservation status

Xerces Red List Status: Imperiled

Other Rankings:

Canada – Species at Risk Act: N/A

Canada – provincial status: N/A

Mexico: None

USA – Endangered Species Act: None

USA – state status: None

NatureServe: G2

IUCN Red List: N/A

The population status is unknown, but this butterfly is restricted to a very small area on three isolated mountain ranges.

description and taxonomic status

Poling’s hairstreak is a small butterfly in the family Lycaenidae. Its wingspan is 25 to 30 mm (1 to 1⅛ inches). The upperside of the wings are a uniform dark brown with a pale fringe. There are two tails on each hindwing. The underside of the wings is also dark brown, although there are a few markings. A narrow, wavy, postmedian band of black-edged white crosses both wings. On the hindwing this forms a W near the base of the tails. There is a blue tail-spot capped narrowly with orange and a submarginal line of orange spots.

Fixsenia polingi (Barnes & Benjamin), 1926. Since some experts consider Fixenia to be congeneric with Satyrium Scudder, 1876, it is likely that Fixenia will be transferred to Satyrium.

life history

Habitat for this hairstreak is dry oak forest. Larval hostplants are gray oak (Quercus grisea) and Emory oak (Q. emoryi).

There are two flight periods, from mid-May to June and from mid-August to early- September. The second flight may be partial and is very unusual for Fixenia. Eggs are laid singly on twigs and overwinter. Caterpillars feed on leaves, buds, and male catkins.


Poling’s hairstreak is found only in the Davis and Chisos mountains of Texas, the Organ mountains of New Mexico (all “sky islands”), and south into the state of Coahuila, Mexico.

Courtesy of Butterflies and Moths of North America, Big Sky Institute.

threats and conservation needs

Threats are not fully identified. Grazing maybe a threat when animals browse seedlings of the hostplants. Invasive weeds is a second potential threat, although the significance of this needs to be assessed. A more significant potential threat may be wildfires. Poling’s hairstreak lives on isolated “sky island” mountains and a major fire could significantly impact habitat.

Excessive grazing in its habitat may threaten regeneration of both oak species. Adult nectar plants and larval hostplants should be protected.

Surveys and monitoring of known populations should be done to establish population size and status, and surveys to establish how widespread the butterfly is within currently unoccupied habitat. Dispersal should be studied to understand the population dynamics and the butterfly’s ability to move between habitat patches. Because of the rarity of this species, host oak populations and available nectar sources should be studied.


Neck, R.W. 1996. A Field Guide to Butterflies of Texas. Gulf Publishing Co., Ho uston, TX.

Opler, P.A. 1999. A Field Guide to Western Butterflies. Houghton-Mifflin Co., Boston, MA.

Scott, J. A. 1986. The Butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA.

Stanford, R. E., and P. A. Opler. 1993. Atlas of Western USA Butterflies Including Adjacent Parts of Canada and Mexico. Denver and Fort Collins, CO.

additional resources

Big Sky Institute, Butterflies and Moths of North America: Poling’s hairstreak (Accessed 1/21/09)

Neartica; The Butterflies and Skippers of North America: Poling’s Hairstreak (Accessed 5/10/05)

NatureServe Explorer (Accessed 9/22/08)


Vaughan, D. M., and M. D. Shepherd. 2005. Species Profile: Fixsenia polingi. In Shepherd, M. D., D. M. Vaughan, and S. H. Black (Eds). Red List of Pollinator Insects of North America. CD-ROM Version 1 (May 2005). Portland, OR: The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


Sign up for our newsletter to receive up to date information about our programs and events.

milkweed butterflies
Hessel's hairstreak (Mitoura hesseli) by Pat Sutton, coauthor of How to Spot Butterflies