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For information on Wisconsin's rare vertebrate animals, contact:
Rich Staffen
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Jay Watson
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Persius Dusky Wing (Erynnis persius)



Persius Dusky Wing (Erynnis persius), a State Special Concern butterfly, has been found in pine/oak barrens and sand barrens. In the midwest, its host plant is wild lupine (Lupinus perennis). This is a univoltine species, with the flight period from mid May to early June. Eggs are laid singly under leaves. Larvae live and eventually hibernate in solitary nests on the plant. Pupation occurs the following spring.

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 Persius Dusky Wing (Erynnis persius). 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 persius in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.
Summary Information
State StatusSC/N
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS3
Global RankG5
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 four small white spots towards the apex arranged in an almost perfect straight line. The forewings are dusted with fine raised hairs, best visible in fresh, perfect specimens. Hindwings above are dark with blurry pale spots in one or two rows in the outer third. 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 for their identification. Wingspan: 29-32 mm. Length of forewing: 14-15 mm. Larvae are pale green with a dark dorsal line and yellow dorsolateral lines and a yellowish to reddish-brown head (Layberry et al. 1998).

Similar Species: Of the eight species of duskywings in Wisconsin, the Persius, Wild Indigo, and Columbine Duskywings are closely 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 ( minimum wingspan of 37 mm, length of forewing 18 mm) and may be distinguished by the two subapical light spots that are usually present on the underside of the hindwing.

Habitat: Pine/oak barrens, sand barrens. Microhabitat includes open sandy ground and small scrub oaks may both be required components of the habitat (Borth 1994).

Nectar Source: Observed nectaring on blueberry (Vaccinium spp.), orange hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum), rock cress (Arabis lyrata) and wild lupine in Wisconsin (Borth, 1994).

Host Plant: Wild lupine (Lupinus perennis) in the Midwest. Uses yellow wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria) in New England.

Associated Species: Other Erynnis species. Sometimes found flying with Wild Indigo Duskywing (E. baptisiae) in the spring. Found with CobwebSkipper (Hesperia metea), Dusted Skipper (Atrytonopsis hianna), Frosted Elfin (Callophrys irus) and Karner Blue (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) at some barrens sites.

State Distribution: The northwestern barrens and Central Sands of Wisconsin: Adams, Burnett, Clark, Eau Claire, Jackson, Juneau, Marquette, Monroe, Polk, Portage, Washburn, Waushara, and Wood counties. Found at some Karner Blue butterfly sites.

Global Distribution: More common in western North America; sparse in the east. Alaska to Nova Scotia. South to central California, Arizona, New Mexico, Tennessee. The subspecies persius has a very reduced range in New England, possibly only Pennsylvania, Maine and New Hampshire. Southward it is likely extirpated from its former locations in New Jersey and Virginia. In the Great Lakes Region it is still found in Wisconsin and Michigan.

Rationale for Species Listing and Threats: Habitat loss due to woody species and forest encroachment. Overwintering immatures are exposed and vulnerable to being killed by fire. Inappropriate roadside or right-of-way mowing and herbicide spraying renders host plant unavailable.This species is thought to be a victim of gypsy moth control in the eastern US when DDT was sprayed in the 1950's and 1960's (Schweitzer 1996).

Phenology: Spring flight occurs from mid May to early June.

Life and Natural History: Univoltine. Eggs are laid singly under leaves. Larvae live and eventually hibernate in solitary nests on the plant. Pupation occurs the following spring (Opler and Krizek 1984).

Survey Guidelines: Erynnis persius is rarely out of sight of a wild lupine patch. During the day, males sit on the ground or on low twigs on hilltops in search of females (Opler and Krizek 1984).

Inventory, Monitoring and Research Needs: Locate additional populations and monitor known sites, particularly those managed with fire.

Management Guidelines: Immature stages of the species are on the plant throughout the year. Sites managed with fire should be divided into several burn units leaving the majority of the site unburned in a given season. Manage lupine through mowing and a fire frequency of 5 years or more (Opler and Krizek 1984). Avoid disturbance of foodplants by roadside maintenance crews during larval development.



Persius Dusky Wing

Persius Dusky Wing, female above. Jackson County.

Photo © Mike Reese.

Persius Dusky Wing

Persius Dusky Wing, below. Jackson County.

Photo © Mike Reese.

Persius Dusky Wing

Photo © Ann Swengel.

Wildlife Action Plan

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

Natural community (habitat) associations

The table below lists the natural communities that are associated with Persius Dusky Wing. Only natural communities for which Persius 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
Oak Barrens 3
Pine Barrens 2
Sand Barrens 2

Ecological landscape associations

The table below lists the ecological landscape association scores for Persius 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 Persius 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, December 22, 2022