Alberta Arctic (Oeneis alberta) (Owes, 1893)

Diagnosis: The upperside is greyish or yellowish brown, much lighter on the outer third of the wings. There are zero to four eye-spots on the forewing, sometimes with pupils, and zero to two smaller eyespots on the hindwing; the spots are repeated on the underside. The forewing underside has a thin dark line at the border of the pale outer area; this is angled sharply outward between the second and third eyespot. The hindwing underside is coarsely striated in dark brown and pale buff, and is distinctly paler on the outer third. Wingspan: 34 to 43 mm.

Subspecies:There are four, but only the nominate subspecies is found in Canada.

Range: Oeneis alberta flies in a few isolated areas of the American Midwest and Southwest, and in the Prairies from southern Manitoba to the Peace River District of Alberta and British Columbia, and southward to Montana.

Specimen collection data

Similar Species: The Chryxus Arctic (O. chryxus) and Uhler's Arctic (O. uhleri). Oeneis alberta flies a little earlier than uhleri. [compare images]

Early Stages: The larvae are dark brown, with a black dorsal stripe and greenish lateral stripes. The head is brownish green with six broad dark stripes. They eat many species of native grasses and overwinter as mature larvae, pupating in April often before the last snow has melted (Kondla et al., 1994)

Abundance: Oeneis alberta is very local, but can be common and even abundant at times; for example, in native grasslands in the Peace River District.

Flight Season: It is on the wing from early May to mid-June, equally common every year.

Habits: The Alberta Arctic flies on dry, sandy, undisturbed prairie ridges and hills when the Prairie Crocus (Anemone patens) is in bloom. Males favour the highest parts and the females lower down the slopes. When disturbed, they tend to fly just a short distance before dropping out of sight into the grass.

© 2002. This material is reproduced with permission from The Butterflies of Canada by Ross A. Layberry, Peter W. Hall, and J. Donald Lafontaine. University of Toronto Press; 1998. Specimen photos courtesy of John T. Fowler.