Columbine Duskywing (Erynnis lucilius) (Scudder and Burgess, 1870)

Diagnosis: This brownish-grey duskywing is much smaller than the previous species (wingspan: 21 to 29 mm). It has four white flecks on the costa, arranged in a slightly wavy line on a slightly darker band across the wing; there is an indistinct paler area beside it.

Range: The Columbine Duskywing flies throughout the northeastern U.S., and in Canada from the Eastern Townships of Quebec through Ontario, west to Batchawana, and in extreme western Ontario and southeastern Manitoba, with disjunct records from Quebec City and northern Manitoba.


Specimen collection data


Similar Species: Males of the Persius Duskywing (E. persius) have white hairs on the upper surface of the forewings, which obscure the basal markings, and both sexes have the four white flecks near the costa of the forewing reduced in size and in very nearly a straight line. The Wild Indigo Duskywing (E. baptisiae) is larger and has, on the upper surface of the forewing, a distinct orange-brown patch in the centre of the wing, which is lacking or very indistinct in lucilius. In the Afranius Duskywing (E. afranius) the forewing has a dusting of white scales, and the hindwing fringes are paler brown. Only persius has good genitalic differences from lucilius. Because of range, habitat, and foodplant differences, lucilius does not occur with any of the above similar species in Canada. [compare images]

Early Stages: The larvae are pale green, with a dark green dorsal line and a black head. They live in folded leaf-nests on the foodplants, columbines (Ranunculaceae), Aquilegia canadensis over most of the range; they likely feed on A. brevistyla in northern Manitoba (Klassen et al., 1989). Mature larvae overwinter in the leaf litter.

Abundance: This species can be common and widespread in the woodland habitat of its foodplant. In eastern Ontario, the second generation is much more numerous than the spring brood.

Flight Season: In the east there are two generations, flying from early May to mid-June, and early July to mid-August. In Manitoba it has been recorded from 22 June to 27 July, likely a single generation.

Habits: Erynnis lucilius is a more avid flower-visitor than most eastern duskywings, and often nectars on columbines, in company with elfins and the Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon). The second generation is often seen on mud on hot, dry August days.

© 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.