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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Brown Elfin - Callophrys augustinus

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S5

Agency Status


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General Description
[From Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001; Pyle 2002] Forewing 1.1-1.3 cm. Tailless but with tail stubs, sexes similar. Uppersurface warm brown to grayish-brown, females more or less with orangish tones; undersurface of hindwing two-toned and darker at base, the irregular line separating the two regions lacking white, a brighter reddish-brown wide marginal band tapering to point at hindwing apex.

One flight; May to early June in the north and at high elevation, mid-May to late June in Newfoundland and Sierra Nevada above 2300 m elevation, late March to mid-April in Georgia, April to May in southwestern US (Scott 1986). Mainly May to June in mountains and north, as early as February in southern California (Glassberg 2001). Early May to mid-June in Colorado (Scott and Scott 1978), mid-March to late July in Oregon and Washington (Pyle 2002), mid-February through July in Oregon (Warren 2005), late April to early June in southeastern British Columbia (Threatful 1988).

Diagnostic Characteristics
Best told by the hindwing undersurface two-toned and darker at base, the irregular line separating the two regions lacking white, a brighter reddish-brown wide marginal band tapering to point at hindwing apex.

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Range Comments
Northern Alaska and Yukon south through Canadian prairie provinces and western mountains to northwestern Mexico, east across boreal Canada and Great Lakes region to Labrador, Newfoundland, and in the eastern US south to northern Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia; isolated populations in the Cypress Hills of Saskatchewan and Black Hills of South Dakota (Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001); 1829 m to 2438 m elevation in the Rocky Mountain states (Brown 1957; Ferris and Brown 1981); 2438 m to 3038 m elevation in south-central Colorado (Scott and Scott 1978); 274 m to 1646 m elevation in Oregon (Warren 2005), 456 m to 762 m elevation in southeastern British Columbia (Threatful 1988). In Montana, reported from at least 19 counties in the western half of the state (Kohler 1980; Stanford and Opler 1993). Mainly uncommon to common (Glassberg 2001).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 5

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)


Variable; including sagebrush steppe, chaparral, pine woodlands, hemlock-fir forest, roadsides, seeps, tree farms, yards, gardens, parks, bogs, forest edges, montane openings (Scott 1986; Threatful 1988; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001; Pyle 2002). In Glacier national Park, Montana reported from forest-edge areas (Debinski 1993).

Food Habits
Larval food plants include Amelanchier, Arbutus, Arctostaphylos, Artemisia, Berberis, Ceanothus (at least three species), Chamaedaphne, Chlorogalum, Cuscuta, Eriodictyon, Eriogonum, Fygopyrum, Gaultheria, Gaylussacia, Holodiscus, Ledum, Malus, Purshia, Pyrus, Rhamnus, Rhododendron, Vaccinium (at least three species) (Scott 1986, 1992; Pyle 2002; Warren 2005; James and Nunnallee 2011). Adults feed on flower nectar (including Aletes, Amelanchier, Arctostaphylos, Asclepias, Berberis, Calyptridium, Cerastium, Cercis, Fragaria, Phlox, Prunus, Rhamnus, Rhus, Senecio, Thlaspi, Trifolium) and mud (Pyle 2002; Scott 2014).

Reproductive Characteristics
Females lay eggs singly (20 eggs in one day reported) on host plant flower inflorescence (flower bud, raceme) (Scott 1986; James and Nunnallee 2011). L1 instar developes to L4 instar and pupa in 22 to 34 days (depending on host plant and temperature). Larvae feed on flower buds and fruits (leaves less often), build no nest, may sometimes be associated with ants, probably pupate in leaf litter near base of host plant, overwinter (hibernate) as pupa (Scott 1979, 1986; James and Nunnallee 2011). Males perch throughout the day in ridgetop openings low to the ground on shrubs or near host plants, also along paths and streambanks (Scott 1975b, 1986; Pyle 2002).

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Citation for data on this website:
Brown Elfin — Callophrys augustinus.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from