Callophrys [Incisalia] augustinus
Brown Elfin

Family Description:
Note: Some authors refer to this species as Callophrys augustus.

Caterpillar: Caterpillars vary in color geographically and with age. Generally, young caterpillars are yellowish and darken to green with each successive molt. Those in the west are light to brownish green and marked with whitish yellow and red on the sides; the marks may appear as bands encircling the body. Eastern caterpillars may be more yellow or yellowish green and may be marked with yellow and white. The average, full-grown length is 1/2 inch.
Adult: This is a small butterfly, with a wingspan of 3/4 to 1 1/8 inches. It is brown to grayish on the upperside, sometimes with orangish shading, especially in females. Underneath is brown, possibly reddish, with the base of the hindwing noticeably darker. There is a faint, wavy solid line and possibly a line of faint dots spanning the underside of both the fore- and hindwing.

This is the most common species of Elfin. It ranges from central Alaska across most of south central and eastern Canada; from Minnesota east to the Atlantic coast, extending south to northern Georgia; in the Pacific Northwest south through California; and in patches of the Rocky Mountain states and the southwest. In Idaho, it occurs through much of the state.

It occurs in an array of habitats, including forests, bogs, chaparral, and deserts.

Caterpillars eat flowers, fruits, and occasionally leaves from a variety of plants, such as blueberry (Vaccinium spp.), bearberry (Arctostaphylos spp.), buck brush (Ceanothus spp.), and madrone (Arbutus spp.).
Adult: Butterflies drink flower nectar, often from plants of the heath family (Ericaceae).

There is only one generation of caterpillars each summer. Each caterpillar experiences four stages of growth, called instars. The caterpillar is equipped with a honey gland, also known as a dorsal nectary organ, which emits a sugary solution agreeable to ants. The ants feed on the solution and in turn protect the caterpillar from predators. Pupae overwinter in a physiological state called diapause; chrysalises are often in the leaf litter at the base of host plants. Adults generally fly from April through July in the northern part of its range, and from mid-March to early June in the southern part of its range. This is the most common elfin species in North America.

Males perch to wait for receptive females. Females lay green eggs singly on the flowers and flower buds of host plants.

Idaho Status: Unprotected nongame species.
Global Rank: G5
populations are widespread, abundant, and secure.

Ballmer, G. R. and G. F. Pratt. 1988. A survey of the last instar larvae of the Lycaenidae of California. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 27:1-81.

Ferris, C. D. and F. M. Brown. (eds.) 1981. Butterflies of the Rocky Mountain States. Univ. of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, USA, 442 pp.

Opler, P. A., H. Pavulaan, and R. E. Stanford. 1995. Butterflies of North America. Jamestown, North Dakota, USA: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Home Page. (Version 05Nov98).

Opler, P. A. and A. B.Wright. 1999. A Field Guide to the Western Butterflies.   Second Edition.  Peterson Field Guide Series. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, New York, USA, 540 pp.

Pyle, R. M. 1981. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, New York, USA, 924 pp.

Scott, J. A. 1986. The Butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, USA, 583 pp.

Stanford, R. E. and P. A. Opler. 1993. Atlas of Western U.S.A. Butterflies (Including Adjacent Parts of Canada and Mexico). Published by authors, Denver, Colorado, USA, 275 pp.