Macoun's Arctic (Oeneis macounii) (W.H. Edwards, 1885)

Diagnosis: The upperside is yellowish brown, with distinct dark greyish-brown wing margins. There are one to four forewing eye-spots, the largest two having white pupils, and a small one near the anal angle of the hindwing, all repeated on the underside. The hindwing underside is finely striated in dark brown and pale grey, with a distinct darker medial band and a diffuse dark area near the margin. Wingspan: 46 to 65 mm.

Range: Macoun's Arctic is almost exclusively a Canadian butterfly, reaching the U.S. only in Minnesota and Michigan. Its range extends from Fire River, in the Algoma District of northern Ontario, west through the Prairie Provinces to central British Columbia (southward in a narrow band just east of the Okanagan Valley), and in the Northwest Territories at Fort Smith, Fort Providence, and around Great Slave Lake. There are isolated colonies in Algonquin Provincial Park, in eastern Ontario, and in western Quebec.

Specimen collection data

Similar Species: The Great Arctic (O. nevadensis). The Chryxus Arctic (O. chryxus) is smaller and has distinctive striations on the hindwing underside. [compare images]

Early Stages: The larva has a grey dorsal stripe and brown, greenish, and grey-green lateral stripes. The head is yellowish green. The foodplants in the wild are unknown, but larvae eat grasses and sedges in captivity (Scott, 1986).

Abundance: This is a locally common species.

Flight Season: Oeneis macounii flies from early June to mid-August, in even-numbered years from eastern Manitoba eastward and in odd years in the west.

Habits: The species is usually associated with dry, sandy Jack Pine forests, where it flies along trails and roadsides, and in clearings. Males perch on trees and shrubs awaiting females, and investigate all butterflies coming close.

Remarks: Unlike most Oeneis, macounii has a very weak, laboured flight. It is frequently difficult to approach because it often lands on the trunk and larger branches of Jack Pines and flies away by darting among the branches.

© 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.