Like most other hairstreaks, this species has thin banding on the otherwise plain underside and threadlike tails extending from the back edge of the hindwing. But the red-banded hairstreak’s tannish-gray underside has a unique pattern of white, black, and red-orange postmedian bands (located just outside the middle of the wing): the red-orange band is wider than the white and black bands combined, and it is positioned closer to the body than the white and black bands. The upper side is blackish brown. Females often have bright iridescent blue on the upperside hindwings, which can be glimpsed during the typical hairstreak behavior of rubbing the wings together. Springtime individuals tend to have more blue than those later in the summer, which may have none.
Larvae are drab brownish yellow-green with an indistinct bluish-green line running down the back and a heavy covering of short, brownish hairs. Reaching about ½ inch in length, they are well camouflaged within their decaying-leaf-litter habitat.
Habitat and Conservation
Caterpillars mostly feed on the ground eating decaying sumac leaves (in genus Rhus, such as fragrant sumac or winged sumac), or on fallen leaves of other plants such as wax myrtle (Morella) and members of the oak and mallow families. They occasionally feed on live parts of the plant. Caterpillars have a slow growth rate feeding on detritus.
Adults visit a variety of flowers and moist places for fluids and nutrients.