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Frosted Elfin (Callophrys irus)


Overview

Overview

Frosted elfin (Callophrys irus), a butterfly listed as Threatened in Wisconsin, has been found in pine barrens, oak savanna, and edges of sandy oak/pine forest. Wild lupine (Lupinus perennis) is the larval host plant and grows on sandy soils under canopy in dry oak/pine forest where it may occur sparsely and in a vegetative state. Frosted elfins are most often found in habitat where the lupine is common to abundant and the patch size is very large (at least 2 to 2.5 acres). Adults are present from early May to mid June and usually fly for 21-30 days.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - both state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Frosted Elfin (Callophrys irus). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where occurrences of this species meet NHI data standards and is not meant as a comprehensive map of all observations.

Note: Species recently added to the NHI Working List may temporarily have blank occurrence maps.


Documented locations of Callophrys irus in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.
Summary Information
State StatusTHR
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1
Global RankG3
Tracked by NHIY
WWAP SGCN

Species guidance


Note: a species guidance document is not available at this time. Information below was originally presented as part of the Online Field Guide to Rare Lepidoptera: Bogs and Barrens.

Identification: Adult males have uniform dark brown wings above with a long stigma; females are dark brown basally becoming orangish-brown toward the outer edge. The hindwings are tailed with the ground color below light brown marked with darker brown basally and medially. Areas of frosty gray scaling line the inner and outer margins of the hindwing below. The ventral hindwing must be closely examined to make an identification. The combination of tailed hindwings, lack of sharply contrasting basal and outer areas of the hindwing, and frosty gray scaling below are diagnostic. Wingspan: 25-30 mm, Length of forewing: 13-15 mm. Larvae are pale blue-green with several white lines down the back and one along each side with oblique white dashes in between (Layberry et al. 1998).

Similar Species: Henry's elfin (Callophrys henrici) is the only other Wisconsin elfin with tailed hindwings. They are orange-brown above and display a distinct contrast between the basal and outer areas of the hindwing below and the white edging between them. The hoary elfin (C. polios) often occurs in the same localities but lacks tailed hindwings.

Habitat: Pine barrens, oak savanna, and edges of sandy oak/pine forest. Wild lupine (Lupinus perennis) is the larval host plant and grows on sandy soils under canopy in dry oak/pine forest where it may occur sparsely and in a vegetative state. Most often, lupine patches occur on the edge of the woodland or in the open to semi-open jackpine/oak barrens habitat. Frosted elfins are most often found in habitat where the lupine is common to abundant and the patch size is very large (at least 2 to 2.5 acres). Lupine grows best in sandy soils and full sun where competition from shrubs and tall grasses is minimal. It spreads quickly in areas recently cleared by fire, logging, grazing, or other disturbance.

Nectar Source: Most nectaring has been observed on blueberry (Vaccinium spp.) (Nielsen 1999).

Host Plant: Wild lupine (Lupinus perennis) in Wisconsin. Other legumes including Baptisia spp.have been recorded in other parts of the range (Borkin, pers. comm.).

Associated Species: Persius duskywing (Erynnis persius), hoary elfin (Callophrys polios), Henry's elfin (C. henrici) and Karner blue (Lycaeides melissa samuelis).

State Distribution: Uncommon and localized throughout its range. Adams, Jackson, Juneau, Monroe and Wood counties.

Global Distribution: Occurs in local colonies from Maine west across New York and southern Michigan to central Wisconsin; south along Atlantic coast and Appalachians to northern Alabama and Georgia. Isolated colony in eastern Texas, northwest Louisiana, and southwest Arkansas.

Rationale for Species Listing and Threats: Habitat loss due to woody species and forest encroachment. Overwintering immatures are presumed exposed and vulnerable to being killed by fire. Larvae may be impacted by Bt spraying for gypsy moth control.

Phenology: Adults are present from early May to mid June and usually fly for 21-30 days.

Life and Natural History: Univoltine. Oviposition occurs on young stalks of flower buds. Larvae consume flowers and developing seed pods. They pupate in a loose cocoon at the base of the hostplant in the litter (Opler and Krizek 1984). Scott (1986) states that the pupae hibernate in the leaf litter silked together. A remnant-dependent species (Panzer et al. 1995).

Survey Guidelines: Frosted elfins are weak fliers (Pyle 1997). They often sip moisture from damp forest trails. New county records should be documented with good photos of the underside, but preferably with voucher specimens.

Inventory, Monitoring and Research Needs: Locate additional populations, particularly in sites managed with prescribed burning and monitor population levels over extended years.

Management Guidelines: Sites managed with prescribed burning should be divided into several burn units leaving refugia for the species. Mowing should be done before April 15 or after July 31 with a 4 inch blade height. See the Bureau of Endangered Resources Incidental Take Protocol for more specific information.

Photos/Video

Photos


Frosted Elfin

The globally rare frosted elfin (WI Threatened) occupies pine and oak barrens remnants in which this butterfly’s larval food plant, wild lupine, is common.

Photo © Mike Reese.

Frosted Elfin

Photo © Robert Borth.

Frosted Elfin

Photo © Robert Borth.


Last revised: Thursday, May 04, 2017