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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Hoary Elfin - Callophrys polios

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, sexes similar. Uppersurface gray-brown; undersurface of forewing with irregular dark-edged divide and white postmedian line, white frosted-looking marginal region with embedded brown submarginal spots, hindwing inner 1/2 dark brown, outer third frosted with a series of embedded submarginal brown spots.

One flight; late April to mid-June in northern range and higher elevations, April to mid-May in southern range (Scott 1986). April to mid-June (Glassberg 2001). Early May through June in Colorado (Scott and Scott 1978), late March to early June on Oregon and Washington (Pyle 2002), late April through May in Oregon (Warren 2005), mid-April to early June in British Columbia (Guppy and Shepard 2001).

Diagnostic Characteristics
Best determined by the undersurface of forewing with dark-edged divide and irregular white postmedian line, white frosted-looking marginal region with a series of embedded small submargial brown spots, hindwing inner 1/2 dark brown, outer third frosted with a series of embedded submarginal brown spots (as on forewing).

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Range Comments
Much of boreal North America from northern Alaska to southeastern Canada, south in the Rocky Mountains to northern Utah and northern New Mexico, south along the Pacific Coast to northern California, south in the eastern US central Appalachian Mountains to Virginia (Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001); 1645 m to 3048 m elevation in Colorado (Brown 1957; Scott and Scott 1978; Ferris and Brown 1981), near sea level to above 1220 m elevation in Oregon (Warren 2005). In Montana, reported from the montane western 1/2 of the state, but also in pine woodland areas in the southeast (Kohler 1980; Stanford and Opler 1993). Locally uncommon to locally common over much of range, locally rare in Oregon and Washington (Glassberg 2001).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 4

(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)


Where host plant occurs in open areas along conifer forest edges, bogs, rocky ridges, barrens, dunes, roadsides (Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001, Guppy and Shepard 2001; Pyle 2002). In Glacier National Park, Montana, reported from above treeline in alpine terrain (Debinski 1993), but this may be an error.

Food Habits
Larval food plants include Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (the primary host plant) and Epigaea repens (Scott 1986, 1992; James and Nunnallee 2011). Adults feed on flower nectar (including Arctostaphylos, Barbarea, Penstemon) and mud (Pyle 2002; Scott 2014).

Reproductive Characteristics
Females lay eggs singly on host plant flower pedicels, base of leaf buds, on underside or edges of leaves (Scott 1986, 1992). Eggs hatch in 5-9 days, L1 instar larvae feed on flowers and leaves, molt to L2 instar in about 6 days, to L3 instar about 11 days post egg-hatch, to L4 instar about 16 days post egg-hatch. Mature L4 instar departs host plant and seeks shelter, pupates in protected site 25-29 days post egg-hatch. Pupae overwinter, adults eclose quickly in spring as soon as conditions permit (3-6 days). Larvae do not build nests, are not gregarious (Scott 1979; James and Nunnallee 2011). Males perch throughout the day low on vegetation in open areas and along trails near host plant, awaiting females (Scott 1975b, 1986).

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