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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Common Alpine - Erebia epipsodea

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S5

Agency Status

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General Description
[From Ferris and Brown 1981, Scott 1986, Glassberg 2001, Pyle 2002] Forewing 2.2-2.4 cm. Uniform dark brown base color dorsally, sometimes lighter gay underneath, with irregular burnt-orange patches on both wings, all wings with two to four submarginal black eyespots with white centers, eyespots on ventral surface sometimes encircled by burnt-orange, especially on the forewings.

One flight; mostly June at lower elevations and in Saskatchewan, mid-July to early August at higher elevations near and above treeline; late June to July in Alaska; early May to early August in Washington and Oregon (Scott 1986, Guppy and Shepard 2001, Pyle 2002).

Diagnostic Characteristics
Determined by combination of dark brown upperside with two to four burnt-orange forewing patches (visible dorsally and ventrally) enclosing two to four submarginal eyespots (the largest two often black with white centers), hindwing blackish-brown underneath with small submarginal eyespots surrounded by orange patches. The only alpine with well-developed hindwing eyespots.

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Range Comments
From Alaska south to northern Oregon in the Cascades, northern New Mexico in the Rocky Mountains west of the Great Plains, and east across southern Canada to western Manitoba (Scott 1986, Glassberg 2001, Pyle 2002). Statewide in Montana except the eastern third (Kohler 1980, Stanford and Opler 1993). From 2130 m to at least 3650 m elevation in Colorado (Ferris and Brown 1981), 610 m to least 2440 m elevation in Oregon and Washington (James and Nunnallee 2011). Uncommon to common (Glassberg 2001).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 41

(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)

Non-migratory; marked individuals moving up to 13 km (Scott 1986, Pyle 2002).

Montane meadows and grasslands, wet meadows, above treeline in alpine tundra and wetlands (Ferris and Brown 1981, Scott 1986, Pyle 2002). In xeric meadows in Glacier National Park, meadows, bogs, and sagebrush flats with aspen in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (Debinski 1993, Debinski and Pritchard 2002).

Food Habits
Larval food plants include various grasses (Poa, Setaria) and sedges, although larval preferences in the wild not yet determined (James and Nunnallee 2011). Adults feed on flower nectar, including Achillia, Allium, Arnica, Barbarea, Caltha, Cerastium, Cryptantha, Erigeron, Erioganum, Geranium, Helianthus, Medicago, Physocarpus, Polygonum, Rubus, Saxifraga, Sedum, Senecio, Solidago, Symphoricarpos, and Taraxacum; adults also feed at mud (Scott 1986, 2014).

Reproductive Characteristics
Females lay up to 60 eggs on live grass. Number of eggs per oviarole (1/8 of total) about 30 (Ehrlich and Ehrlich 1978). Eggs hatch in 8-10 days (depending on temperature), L1 instar completed in 10 days, 10-35 days in L2 (depending on temperature), enter diapause (overwinter) as L3 or L4 instars. Overwintering larvae seek refuge at base of grasses where they may settle in a grassy tuft and make a loose cocoon, although no nest is constructed (Ferris and Brown 1981, Pyle 2002, James and Nunnallee 2011). Males patrol throughout the day over wet grassy meadows and swales in search of females (Scott 1975b, 1986).

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Citation for data on this website:
Common Alpine — Erebia epipsodea.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from