Moss's Elfin (Callophrys mossii) (Hy. Edwards, 1881)

Diagnosis: The upperside of this small elfin (wingspan: 22 to 25 mm) is greyish brown with buffy patches. The underside is a coppery brown with the inner half much darker. It is best distinguished from similar elfin by the white fringe and the white line on the hindwing separating the dark basal half from the hoary shading on the outer half.

Subspecies: The nominate subspecies mossii, described from Esquimalt, British Columbia, is found on southern Vancouver Island. Subspecies schryveri occurs throughout the remainder of the Canadian range.

Range: Moss's Elfin in Canada is restricted to southern British Columbia, where it is found in the southeastern part of Vancouver Island and in the Okanagan, Arrow Lakes, and Kootenay Valleys.There is one record from southwestern Alberta near West Castle. This species extends south in the U.S. to central California.

Specimen collection data

Similar Species: The Brown Elfin (Callophrys augustinus). [compare images]

Early Stages: The colour of the larvae ranges from bright red to green with red lines and dashes.They are covered with short golden hairs. The foodplants are stonecrops (Sedum spp., Crassulaceae).

Description of this image follows.
Moss's Elfin (Callophrys mossii mossii).
Victoria, BC. J.B. Tatum

Abundance: This species is easily overlooked, as it stays close to its larval foodplants in relatively inaccessible areas (Pyle, 1981). It should be considered a vulnerable species throughout its range.

Flight Season: In Canada it has been recorded from March to June.

Habits: Moss's Elfin lives along canyon slopes and brushy ravines and steep hills, flying close to the ground. It never wanders far from the foodplants. Males sip moisture at patches of damp earth.

Remarks: Until recently, mossii was treated as a subspecies of the Desert Elfin, Callophrys fotis (Strecker), which occurs in the southern Great Basin. The Desert Elfin, however, feeds on Cowania, in the Rosaceae.

© 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.