Eastern Pine Elfin (Callophrys niphon) (Hübner, 1823)

Diagnosis: This elfin has two dark bars in the forewing underside cell and a strongly patterned underside. There is an irregular postmedian line edged with white on the forewing, and the hindwing is darker at the base and strongly patterned. Towards the outer edge of the hindwing is a row of inverted crescents with a band of grey close to the margin. Wingspan: 22 to 27 mm.

Subspecies: Subspecies clarki, which has a paler reddish-brown or yellow-brown pattern below and more diffuse markings, is found throughout the wide distribution of this species in Canada. Some specimens from northwestern Ontario are more sharply marked with dark brown on the underside and resemble the nominate subspecies niphon, which is found in the eastern U.S.

Range: The Eastern Pine Elfin is found in most of the eastern U.S. In Canada, it has been reported from Newfoundland in the larval form on Balsam Fir, but this may have been Western Pine Elfin (Morris, 1980). It is widespread in Nova Scotia and southern New Brunswick. It is common in southern Quebec, east to Sept-Iles and north almost to James Bay. In Ontario, it reaches north to Favourable Lake. It is found in southern Manitoba, north to Lynn Lake, in central Saskatchewan, and in northern Alberta. There is one record from British Columbia (at the Liard Highway at Nelson River) and three from the Northwest Territories, north to Wrigley.

Specimen collection data

Similar Species: Very similar to and easily confused with the Western Pine Elfin (C. eryphon), but the latter species has only one transverse dark bar in the middle of the forewing cell below (there are two parallel bars in niphon), and there is less grey shading in the submedian and marginal areas of the hindwing below. The series of black V-shaped marks on the hindwing below forms a prominent, continuous zigzag line in eryphon, but in niphon these form a discontinuous series of black peaks to the irregular brown spots that they "cap." The Bog Elfin (C. lanoraieensis) is much smaller, the ground colour of the hindwing below is dark and light brown, not reddish or yellow brown as in C. niphonclarki, and the grey shading on the wing margin is more extensive, usually extending to the black wedge-shaped marks. [compare images]

Early Stages: The green larvae have whitish lines along the body, sometimes tinged with orange.They are usually reported to feed on hard pines such as Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana), but in the Ottawa area the Eastern Pine Elfin is usually seen around, and has been reared on, the soft White Pine (P. strobus). Attempted rearings on Red Pine in Ottawa and on Jack Pine in New Brunswick were unsuccessful.

Abundance: In areas where pines abound, this tends to be the most common of the elfins.

Flight Season: Adults fly from early May to early June over most of its Canadian range.

Habits: Look for this butterfly in sandy areas with pine trees. The males often gather along roadways in this habitat sipping moisture from the ground. The females usually perch on the pine trees; both sexes visit flowers.

Remarks: The subspecies clarki was named from specimens collected in the sandhills at Constance Bay, Ontario, near Ottawa where it is still common and easy to find. Hooper (1973) reported niphon from the Cypress Hills of Saskatchewan, but no specimens from there have been found.

© 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.