Western Pine Elfin (Callophrys eryphon) (Boisduval, 1852)

Diagnosis: This elfin is a uniform chocolate brown above in the male and orange brown in the female. It is best distinguished by the zigzag row of dark and whitish chevron marks on the hindwing underside, and by the single dark bar in the forewing underside cell. The margins of the wings are checkered, giving a slightly scalloped appearance. Wingspan: 22 to 28 mm.

Subspecies: Subspecies eryphon occurs in most of the range of the species. Subspecies sheltonensis, which is slightly more purple on the underside, occurs in the Puget Sound area of Washington and might occur on some of the Gulf Islands in British Columbia.

Range: A mainly western North American species, it also stretches sporadically east across Canada as far as northern New Brunswick. A larva of this species or Eastern Pine Elfin (C. niphon) was collected in Newfoundland on Balsam Fir (Morris, 1980). It is found north to the Lac-St-Jean region of Quebec, west to northern Ontario (Hudson Bay). There is a surprising record from Port Hope in southern Ontario based on a 1912 specimen in the Canadian National Collection in Ottawa. It is widespread from northwestern Ontario, through northern Manitoba, to Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories. It occurs throughout the mountains of British Columbia and Alberta north to the Peace River district and in the Cypress Hills on the Alberta-Saskatchewan border.

Similar Species: The Eastern Pine Elfin (C. niphon). [compare images]

Description of this image follows
Western Pine Elfin (Callophrys eryphon sheltonensis), larva. J.B. Tatum

Early Stages: The larva is similar to that of the Eastern Pine Elfin and feeds mostly on the young needles of a variety of hard pines, especially Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta). It is reported (Opler and Malikul, 1992) to feed on Black Spruce (Picea mariana) in some eastern locations. However, Reginald Webster (pers. comm.) reports that it only perches on Black Spruce in bogs where it goes to nectar, but it is much more common in surrounding White Pine forests.

Abundance: The Western Pine Elfin is usually uncommon and very local from southern Manitoba eastward; it is more common in the west.

Habits: Like its eastern counterpart, eryphon is most often found in the vicinity of its larval foodplants, often perching on the needles. It also rests on the ground and visits flowers along roadsides.

Remarks: The two pine elfins can present identification problems. They fly together at some locations, but they do not appear to hybridize, although some specimens can be difficult to identify.

© 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.