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Rich Staffen
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Columbine Dusky Wing (Erynnis lucilius)



Columbine Dusky Wing ( Erynnis lucilius ), a State Special Concern butterfly, This species is found in woodland habitat with wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis); most often in rocky ravines, gullies, or woodland edge. Also found in prairie habitat edged with oak woods. This species is bivoltine, their flight periods are the first three weeks of May and mid July through early August. Larvae live in leaf nests on the hostplant and mature larvae overwinter in the litter at the base of the plant.

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 Columbine Dusky Wing (Erynnis lucilius). 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 Erynnis lucilius in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.
Summary Information
State StatusSC/N
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS2S3
Global RankG3
Tracked by NHIY

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: The forewings above are mottled with black, brown and faint tan patches with several small white spots towards the apex; brown patch at end of forewing cell is indistinct. Hindwing below has a single strong row of white spots along the outer margin. Hindwing above is dark with blurry pale spots in one or two rows in the outer third and a thin black marginal line and a gray fringe. The habit of resting on the ground with wings held below horizontal helps separate the Erynnis skippers from other dark butterflies. Sending a specimen to a lepidopterist for microscopic examination is the only way to reliably separate the Persius, Wild Indigo, and Columbine duskywings. All three are hostplant specialists, and careful observations of adult activity around possible host plants may offer a clue to their identification. Wingspan: 21-29 mm. Length of forewing: 11-14 mm. Larvae are pale green with a dark green dorsal line and a black head (Layberry et al 1998).

Similar Species: Of the eight species of duskywings in Wisconsin, the Persius, Wild Indigo, and Columbine duskywings are very similar and the most difficult to distinguish from each other. Sleepy and Dreamy duskywings have no white spots and a prominent chain-like postmedian band on the forewing. Juvenal's duskywing is significantly larger (37 mm wingspan, forewing 18 mm) and distinguished by the two subapical light spots that are usually present on the underside of the hindwing.

Habitat: Woodland habitat with wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis); most often in rocky ravines, gullies, or woodland edge. Also found in prairie habitat edged with oak woods.

Nectar Source: Columbine (Layberry et al. 1998) and flower nectar (Opler et al. 1995). The Columbine Duskywing visits flowers more often than other eastern duskywing species (Layberry et al. 1995).

Host Plant: Wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis).

Associated Species: May be found nectaring with elfins (Callophrys spp.) and spring azures (Celastrina ladon) (Layberry et al. 1998).

State Distribution: There are records for the species from all parts of the state with the exception of the Northern Highlands region. Chippewa, Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Fond du Lac, Grant, Sauk, Trempealeau, Vernon, Washington, Waukesha and Waupaca Counties. However, uncommon and localized in Wisconsin. The columbine duskywing is not present in all areas containing the foodplant. Its status is difficult to accurately determine due to the great difficulty of identification.

Global Distribution: Southern New England south to New Jersey and Pennsylvania; in the Appalachians to Virginia and Kentucky; west through southern Quebec and into Iowa and Minnesota..

Rationale for Species Listing and Threats: Habitat loss due to woody species and forest encroachment. Since it is unknown where the larvae overwinter, they may be exposed and vulnerable to being killed by fire. Larvae may be impacted by Bt spraying for gypsy moth control.

Phenology: First three weeks of May and mid July through early August.

Life and Natural History: Bivoltine. Larvae live in leaf nests on the hostplant. Mature larvae overwinter in the litter at the base of the plant (Layberry et al. 1998).

Survey Guidelines: Look for second generation adults taking moisture along damp roadways. Voucher specimens should be collected and examined by a specialist.

Inventory, Monitoring and Research Needs: Locate additional populations and better define adult flight times.

Management Guidelines: Sites managed with fire should be divided into several burn units and include refugia as a necessary precaution.



Columbine Dusky Wing

Photo © Ann Thering.

Wildlife Action Plan

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

Natural community (habitat) associations

The table below lists the natural communities that are associated with Columbine Dusky Wing. Only natural communities for which Columbine Dusky Wing is "high" (score=3) or "moderate" (score=2) associated are shown. See the key to association scores for complete definitions. Please see the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.

Natural community Score
Dry Cliff 2

Ecological landscape associations

The table below lists the ecological landscape association scores for Columbine Dusky Wing. The scores correspond to the map (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None). For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

This map shows the probability of Columbine Dusky Wing occurring in each of Wisconsin's Ecological Landscapes.  Actual scores can be found in the table to the left.

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Landscape-Community combinations of highest ecological priority*

Ecological priorities are the combinations of natural communities and ecological landscapes that provide Wisconsin's best opportunities to conserve important habitats for a given Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The 10 highest scoring combinations are considered ecological priorities and are listed below. More than 10 combinations are listed if multiple combinations tied for 10th place. For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

* Ecological priority score is a relative measure that is not meant for comparison between species. This score does not consider socio-economical factors that may dictate protection and/or management priorities differently than those determined solely by ecological analysis. Further, a low ecological priority score does not imply that management or preservation should not occur on a site if there are important reasons for doing so locally.

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Issues/threats and conservation actions

Conservation actions respond to issues or threats, which adversely affect species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) or their habitats. Besides actions such as restoring wetlands or planting resilient tree species in northern communities, research, surveys and monitoring are also among conservation actions described in the WWAP because lack of information can threaten our ability to successfully preserve and care for natural resources.

Threats/issues and conservations actions for rare animals

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Last revised: Thursday, October 08, 2020