Callophrys irus - (Godart, [1824])
Frosted Elfin
Other English Common Names: frosted elfin
Synonym(s): Incisalia irus
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Callophrys irus (Godart, 1824) (TSN 777851)
French Common Names: lutin givré
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.116737
Element Code: IILEPE2220
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Invertebrates - Insects - Butterflies and Moths - Butterflies and Skippers
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Mandibulata Insecta Lepidoptera Lycaenidae Callophrys
Genus Size: D - Medium to large genus (21+ species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Opler, P. A., and A. D. Warren. 2002. Butterflies of North America. 2. Scientific Names List for Butterfly Species of North America, north of Mexico. C.P. Gillette Museum of Arthropod Diversity, Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado. 79 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B02OPL01EHUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Callophrys irus
Taxonomic Comments: This species does not belong in the genus Incisalia which was polyphyletic in older literature and should be restricted to the Pinaceae feeding elfins if one wants to use it at all. The genus name Deciduiphagus is available for those who want to split this group of elfins off from Callophrys. C. irus may be two species or three species, of which all would be globally rare, but it is also quite possible this is a single species with foodplant races and subspecies. At least as far back as Klots (1951) various authors have suggested that the taxon hadros might be a full species. Furthermore there has been speculation that the lupine and Baptisia feeding versions are not conspecific. Lupine feeding populations from the Great Lakes states differ from Baptisia feeding populations (eastern Massachusetts to at least the lower Midwest and South Carolina) in having generally smaller and mostly paler adults. However, it is equally possible that maculation differences are more geographical than foodplant related. In particular separation of the easternmost lupine feeders from Albany, New York, New England and Delaware from Baptisia feeders as adults is apparently often not possible, although some specimens are obvious and easily placed. In general as Gatrelle (1991) points out, adults of the Baptisia feeders tend to be larger and darker than those of lupine feeders. The larval difference seems more constant but larvae need to be examined examined from more states. However lupine feeding larvae from New York, New Hampshire and Wisconsin are virtually unmarked (resembling Karner Blue larvae) while all Baptisia feeders examined from Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey have the usual chevron pattern visible to prominent. The lupine feeding larvae also feed almost exclusively on flowers and seed pods while the Baptisia feeder eats leaves and scrapes stems. While a few sites for the butterfly have both foodplants, apparently no populations feed on both. Both lupine and Baptisia feeding populations occurred in at least two counties: Connecticut: New Haven and New York: Suffolk (Schweitzer, 1992) and almost certainly formerly in northern New Jersey but these entities were apparently not microsympatric. Subspecies arsace (at least as the name is applied in collections etc.) is a disjunct extreme variant of the Baptisia feeder found only in the coastal Carolinas. The alleged Holotype of irus (also fixed as a Neotype and illustrated by Gatrelle, 1999) is obviously the eastern Baptisia feeder and judging from the phenotype Gatrelle is probably right that it came from near Philadelphia, probably actually from southern New Jersey, although similar specimens do occur in the southern piedmont. As presently used, the subspecies name Callophrys irus irus includes all lupine feeding populations as well as most Baptisia feeders. The highly imperiled lupine feeding entity in north Florida has rather distinctive adults, which notably do not closely resemble arsace which probably would be the closest Baptisia feeding populations. They also are not particularly similar to northern lupine feeders. D.F.SChweitzer.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G3
Global Status Last Reviewed: 30Mar2008
Global Status Last Changed: 04May1999
Rounded Global Status: G3 - Vulnerable
Reasons: Extremely local and usually scarce rangewide with on-going decline and serious threats in much of the range. Historic or extirpated in at least Ontario, Maine, and Illinois, and is ranked as critically imperiled (S1) in at least Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Ohio, Florida, and almost certainly should be in Indiana. No state lists it as secure (S4) or even as a straight S3 (merely uncommon to rare). The species is listed as Threatened in several states including two of its three major strongholds (New Jersey and Michigan) and being reevaluated in the third, namely Massachusetts. A major portion of the range coincides with that of the Federally Endangered Karner Blue and within most of that area the Karner Blue is substantially the more abundant of the two and occurs at nearly all frosted elfin sites which confers some protection and management. However the total range of C. irus is much larger. The frosted elfin is declining or extirpated in all areas where there is information. In most of its range the frosted elfin is now confined to remnant habitats under powerlines, along railroads, on airports etc. which are completely dependent on more or less fortuitous management. Still this butterfly has a large, fragmented range with probably 20 or more viable populations still extant and others that could be recovered. While it is rare, imperiled, or extirpated in all states, the frosted elfin is not imminently imperiled everywhere and there are reasonably secure populations in a few states. In particular there is one very large metapopulation in New Jersey, although its ultimate fate is unclear. It may yet benefit from recent state-listing. Subspecies C. irus arsace appears to be in serious trouble, probably from prescribed burning as well as development and silviculture--assuming it is still extant. Information on subspecies C. i. hadros in the literature is very limited and it was not significantly factored into the ranking process for the species as a whole. Arkansas Natural Heritage Program considers it highly imperiled (S1) which is the only current state rank. The bulk of its range is in Texas which has not ranked it.
Nation: United States
National Status: N3 (17Oct2000)
Nation: Canada
National Status: NX (17Aug2017)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (SU), Arkansas (SNR), Connecticut (S2S3), Delaware (S1), District of Columbia (SH), Florida (S1), Georgia (S2S4), Illinois (SH), Indiana (S1), Kansas (SNR), Kentucky (S1), Louisiana (S2S3), Maine (SX), Maryland (S1), Massachusetts (S2S3), Michigan (S2S3), New Hampshire (S1), New Jersey (S2), New York (S1S2), North Carolina (S2), Ohio (S1), Oklahoma (S1), Pennsylvania (S1S2), Rhode Island (S1), South Carolina (SNR), Tennessee (S1?), Texas (SNR), Vermont (S1), Virginia (S2?), West Virginia (S1), Wisconsin (S1)
Canada Ontario (SX)

Other Statuses

Canadian Species at Risk Act (SARA) Schedule 1/Annexe 1 Status: XT (05Jun2003)
Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC): Extirpated (25Apr2010)
Comments on COSEWIC: Reason for designation: Extirpated by 1988.

Status history: Designated Extirpated in April 1999. Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2000 and in April 2010.

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Originally H but now greatly reduced to the extent occurrences in many states are isolated dots on a map and not part of any meaningful range. Overall somewhat concentrated in sandy areas and on the coastal plain in southeastern New England, southern New Jersey, Michigan, Wisconsin, the Carolina Sand Hills, and (at least formerly) along the southern North Carolina and South Carolina coasts. Lupine-feeding populations of the frosted elfin are found mostly in the Carolina Sand Hills to northern Florida, and in the Great Lakes region from Wisconsin to northern Ohio, but extend eastward in widely scattered sandy areas through New York, central Pennsylvania, and inland New England, formerly as far as Norway, Maine, including southern New Hampshire, western Massachusetts, western Rhode Island, and Connecticut, and on Long Island, New York and formerly into northern New Jersey. Lupine feeders also occur in the Delmarva Peninsula (Delaware and Maryland). Populations that feed on Baptisia occur from eastern Massachusetts southward through New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania and Virginia to northeastern North Carolina. There have also been a very few occurrences of Baptisia feeders documented in West Virginia, extreme southern Ohio, and Kentucky, and very locally farther west in northern Arkansas and perhaps Kansas. Lupine and wild indigo feeding populations occurred about 15 kilometers apart in the 1970s in New Haven County, Connecticut (DFS, C.L. Remington), and both may still occur in Suffolk County on Long Island, New York. (Schweitzer 1992), as they formerly did in northern New Jersey. Subspecies arsace (at least as the name has been applied) is apparently a disjunct extreme variant of the wild indigo feeder (according to the late Ronald Gatrelle) found only in the coastal Carolinas, which would be east of the lupine feeding populations. If all populations not presently treated as hadros or arsace are treated as a single subspecies, C. irus irus occurs to the north, west and well to the south of C. i. arsace and to the north and east of C. i. hadros.

Area of Occupancy: 26-500 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments:  

Number of Occurrences: 21 - 300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Mostly under ten per state, probably entirely so if demes are properly clustered and treated as metapopulation occurrences. Number unknown for subspecies hadros aside from what is implied in S-ranks.

Population Size: 10,000 - 100,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: One population in New Jersey is apparently in the thousands, and another discovered in 2005 is probably close to 500, but most others appear to be a hundred adults or less. In the Carolinas one rarely sees ten in a visit with a maximum of only 18, compared to over 50-100+ at the best few New Jersey sites, and generally over 20 at most others there that survived past the bad year in 2003. Where they occur together C. irus is nearly always scarcer than the Karner Blue, but it is also clearly more capable of persisting in low numbers. As far as known no population has been studied by mark-release-recapture so there are no reliable population estimates, but for a given season the total is probably a feww times the number seen on a given day.

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Few to some (4-40)
Viability/Integrity Comments: Really depends on definition of of good viability since nearly all populations in most parts of the range are totally dependent on fortuitous managment practices of their habitats in right of ways, at airports and rarely preserves. Few or none would persist two decades without management. In general most occurrences found with viable Karner populations should be viable, although in general Karner Blues will be much more numerous which means some associated C. irus populations could be less viable.

Overall Threat Impact: High
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Besides outright obliteration of habitats by development, road improvements, disking of right of ways, or for pine farming (silviculture), two or three populations were observed to disappear permanently during periods of severe deer herbivory in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and a few demes have been at least temporarily eradicated by deer in New York and New Hampshire. Prescribed burning apparently eradicated a population of subspecies arsace near and in the Green Swamp of North Carolina (Jeff Nikkola pers. comm. to Schweitzer) "Winking out" of tiny remnant colonies has occurred recently at least in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Gypsy moth spraying with Carbaryl, apparently wiped out one Rhode Island site--perhaps since recolonized. This species is so reduced in some areas that even cumulative impacts of normally innocuous collecting practices could possibly be a local threat. It is likely that gypsy moth spraying even with Btk is also a threat. However a strong population would probably survive one Btk application since larvae are quite staggered and later ones would not be exposed Applications of more persistent toxins like Diflubenzuron would be much more likely to eradicate an occurrence (Schweitzer, 2004). Out of control deer have eliminated both lupine and Baptisia feeding populations. In addition one of the major foodplants, Lupinus perennis, has declined substantially to catastrophically in large parts of the range (partly due to deer in some areas). Also the mere fact that most populations of subspecies irus and arsace are now completely dependent on direct benign management is itself a threat because sudden changes in management practices (such as disking and herbiciding in 2002-2003 after two decades of just winter mowing in NJ) can have major almost immediate major negative impacts. As the New Jersey incidents demonstrated lack of communication among management personnel can (and did) lead to inadvertent losses even where the species is supposedly protected as endangered or threatened. On a larger time scale alteration of fire regimens has eliminated a lot of former habitat, but lack of fire is not now a major short term threat. For now it is considered that populations co-occurring with protected Karner Blue populations are not threatened--otherwise scope of threat would definitely be considered high rather than moderate.

Short-term Trend: Decline of 10-50%
Short-term Trend Comments: Has lost populations in several states during the past 20 years with about 40% of known eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey populations lost from 1995-2003. Out of control deer have apparently been the primary reason. It may be more stable in the Great Lakes region. Decline has halted in some areas mainly where it benefits from Karner Blue management. A major metapopulation occurrence was eradicated on state lands in New Jersey in 2002-2003 (despite state listing) by herbiciding and (worse) disking of the habitats. Late season herbiciding in 2002 was not itself highly destructive since Baptisia was largely senesced. However in the spring these plants were the only green vegetation taller than a few cm and were severely damaged by deer which were only a moderate problem previously. Herbicided areas had no nectar in 2003 and 2004 but did by 2005. The well known Assunpink, New Jersey occurrence either simply "winked out" or was eliminated by deer (damage was observed in several years). Yet another New Jersey occurrence has probably been lost to succession. As of 2001 New Jersey was the stronghold for the Baptisia feeder and both really large populations ever documented still occur there (as of 2005). Small lupine feeding colonies at Montague Plains, Massachusetts "winked out" in the late 1980s or 1990s. The two Pennsylvania serpentine barrens populations were wiped out by deer (and no other apparent factor) during the same period. There are also believed to have been extirpations (especially of subspecies arsace) in the Carolinas in the 1990s due to development and (fide Jeff Nekkola) prescribed burning. Decline is probably more rapid now for the Baptisia feeder since most known extant lupine feeding populations from New Hampshire to Wisconsin also have the Federally Endangered Karner Blue. The Karner Blue is the less rare of the two within that region. However given its dependence on flowers and seeds when eating lupine, frosted elfins are more vulnerable to deer than Karner Blue. Out of control deer are probably a significant threat in at least New York and Ontario if not most of the range.

Long-term Trend: Decline of >50%
Long-term Trend Comments: Inadequate documentation to be more precise. However almost all natural oak savanna habitat has been severely altered or destroyed leaving scattered tiny remnant occurrences. The species is known to be extirpated from Maine and Ontario and probably Illinois and few occurences are secure anywhere. Albany Pine Bush habitat shrunk greatly by 1970s and New Hampshire habitat is virtually gone. Furthermore Lupinus perennis has declined drastically in most of the range of subspecies irus. The full original extent of the Baptisia feeder is unknown, but almost all natural communities that once supported it no longer do, and remaining populations are almost all on various right of ways. Subspecies arsace may be close to extinction and almost all original habitat for the species on the southern coastal plain has been destroyed for pine farms, conventional agriculture or development.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Not intrinsically vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Very narrow to narrow.
Environmental Specificity Comments: Somewhat variable geographically as to how specialized this species is for certain habitat parameters. An extreme foodplant specialist at least and lupine feeders require abundant flowers and pods every year. Adults apparently avoid just-burned habitat patches but it is unclear why.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Inventory Needs: Most needed for subspecies hadros and arsace and the southeastern lupine feeding ecotype of subspecies irus.

Protection Needs: Needs conservative burning or no fires. Specifically there must be unburned refugia and several years between fires for all patches. The species is a good colonizer although it is unknown over what distances. For now follow guidelines for the Karner Blue. However there is one important difference: lupine feeding populations (at least in new York and New Hampshire) pupate in the soil and are the only prairie or barrens butterfly species likely to have good survival even in hot fires (Schweitzer, direct observations at Albany, New York). It is not clear why the species seems fire aversive in the Great Lakes region. Baptisia feeders (at least in New Jersey) do not pupate in the soil and are extremely vulnerable in most fires-like other butterflies.

Distribution
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Global Range: (200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)) Originally H but now greatly reduced to the extent occurrences in many states are isolated dots on a map and not part of any meaningful range. Overall somewhat concentrated in sandy areas and on the coastal plain in southeastern New England, southern New Jersey, Michigan, Wisconsin, the Carolina Sand Hills, and (at least formerly) along the southern North Carolina and South Carolina coasts. Lupine-feeding populations of the frosted elfin are found mostly in the Carolina Sand Hills to northern Florida, and in the Great Lakes region from Wisconsin to northern Ohio, but extend eastward in widely scattered sandy areas through New York, central Pennsylvania, and inland New England, formerly as far as Norway, Maine, including southern New Hampshire, western Massachusetts, western Rhode Island, and Connecticut, and on Long Island, New York and formerly into northern New Jersey. Lupine feeders also occur in the Delmarva Peninsula (Delaware and Maryland). Populations that feed on Baptisia occur from eastern Massachusetts southward through New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania and Virginia to northeastern North Carolina. There have also been a very few occurrences of Baptisia feeders documented in West Virginia, extreme southern Ohio, and Kentucky, and very locally farther west in northern Arkansas and perhaps Kansas. Lupine and wild indigo feeding populations occurred about 15 kilometers apart in the 1970s in New Haven County, Connecticut (DFS, C.L. Remington), and both may still occur in Suffolk County on Long Island, New York. (Schweitzer 1992), as they formerly did in northern New Jersey. Subspecies arsace (at least as the name has been applied) is apparently a disjunct extreme variant of the wild indigo feeder (according to the late Ronald Gatrelle) found only in the coastal Carolinas, which would be east of the lupine feeding populations. If all populations not presently treated as hadros or arsace are treated as a single subspecies, C. irus irus occurs to the north, west and well to the south of C. i. arsace and to the north and east of C. i. hadros.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, AR, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, MEextirpated, MI, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WI, WV
Canada ONextirpated

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
AR Franklin (05047), Hempstead (05057), Miller (05091)
CT Hartford (09003), Litchfield (09005), New London (09011), Tolland (09013), Windham (09015)
DE Kent (10001)*, Sussex (10005)
FL Clay (12019), Franklin (12037), Leon (12073), Liberty (12077), Nassau (12089), Okaloosa (12091), Walton (12131)
GA Bibb (13021), Coweta (13077), Habersham (13137), Murray (13213)*, Richmond (13245), Thomas (13275), Towns (13281), White (13311)
IN Jasper (18073), Porter (18127)
KY Bell (21013)*, Clay (21051)*, Garrard (21079)*, Harlan (21095), Jessamine (21113)*, Knox (21121)*, Leslie (21131)*, Mercer (21167)*, Whitley (21235)*, Woodford (21239)*
LA Bossier (22015), Caddo (22017), Claiborne (22027), De Soto (22031)*, Grant (22043), Natchitoches (22069), Rapides (22079), Red River (22081)*, Sabine (22085)*, Vernon (22115), Webster (22119)
MA Barnstable (25001), Bristol (25005), Essex (25009), Franklin (25011), Hampden (25013), Middlesex (25017), Norfolk (25021), Plymouth (25023), Worcester (25027)
MD Charles (24017), Dorchester (24019), Garrett (24023), Wicomico (24045), Worcester (24047)
MI Allegan (26005), Bay (26017)*, Iosco (26069), Kalamazoo (26077)*, Kent (26081), Lake (26085)*, Mecosta (26107)*, Monroe (26115)*, Montcalm (26117)*, Muskegon (26121), Newaygo (26123), Oceana (26127)
NC Brunswick (37019), Columbus (37047), Cumberland (37051), Franklin (37069), Gates (37073), Harnett (37085), Hoke (37093), Jones (37103), Moore (37125), Pender (37141), Scotland (37165)
NH Merrimack (33013), Rockingham (33015)*, Strafford (33017)*
NJ Atlantic (34001), Camden (34007)*, Cape May (34009), Cumberland (34011), Gloucester (34015)*, Middlesex (34023)*, Monmouth (34025), Morris (34027)*, Ocean (34029)*, Passaic (34031)*, Sussex (34037)*
NY Albany (36001), Erie (36029)*, Genesee (36037)*, Nassau (36059), Niagara (36063)*, Oneida (36065), Saratoga (36091), Suffolk (36103), Warren (36113)
OH Lucas (39095)
PA Berks (42011), Centre (42027), Chester (42029), Clearfield (42033)*, Dauphin (42043)*, Delaware (42045)*, Lackawanna (42069), Lancaster (42071)*, Lebanon (42075), Monroe (42089), Montgomery (42091)*
RI Kent (44003), Providence (44007), Washington (44009)
SC Berkeley (45015), Charleston (45019), Chesterfield (45025), Williamsburg (45089)
VA Augusta (51015)*, Fairfax (51059), Isle of Wight (51093), Montgomery (51121)*, Prince William (51153), Roanoke (51161)*, Rockbridge (51163), Salem (City) (51775)*, Spotsylvania (51177)*, Suffolk (City) (51800)
VT Bennington (50003)
WI Adams (55001), Jackson (55053), Juneau (55057), Monroe (55081), Wood (55141)
WV Randolph (54083)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
01 Piscataqua-Salmon Falls (01060003)+*, Merrimack (01070002)+, Contoocook (01070003)+*, Concord (01070005)+, Merrimack (01070006)+, Middle Connecticut (01080201)+, Lower Connecticut (01080205)+, Westfield (01080206)+, Farmington (01080207)+, Charles (01090001)+, Cape Cod (01090002)+, Blackstone (01090003)+, Narragansett (01090004)+, Pawcatuck-Wood (01090005)+, Quinebaug (01100001)+, Shetucket (01100002)+, Thames (01100003)+
02 Hudson-Hoosic (02020003)+, Mohawk (02020004)+, Middle Hudson (02020006)+, Rondout (02020007)+*, Hackensack-Passaic (02030103)+*, Sandy Hook-Staten Island (02030104)+*, Raritan (02030105)+*, Southern Long Island (02030202)+, Middle Delaware-Mongaup-Brodhead (02040104)+, Middle Delaware-Musconetcong (02040105)+, Lower Delaware (02040202)+*, Schuylkill (02040203)+, Brandywine-Christina (02040205)+*, Cohansey-Maurice (02040206)+, Broadkill-Smyrna (02040207)+*, Mullica-Toms (02040301)+*, Great Egg Harbor (02040302)+, Chincoteague (02040303)+*, Upper Susquehanna-Lackawanna (02050107)+, Upper West Branch Susquehanna (02050201)+*, Bald Eagle (02050204)+, Lower Susquehanna-Swatara (02050305)+, Lower Susquehanna (02050306)+, Choptank (02060005)+*, North Branch Potomac (02070002)+, South Fork Shenandoah (02070005)+*, Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan (02070010)+, Lower Potomac (02070011)+, Mattaponi (02080105)+*, Western Lower Delmarva (02080109)+, Pokomoke-Western Lower Delmarva (02080111)+, Upper James (02080201)+*, Maury (02080202)+
03 Upper Roanoke (03010101)+*, Blackwater (03010202)+, Ghowan (03010203)+, Fishing (03020102)+, Lower Neuse (03020204)+, Upper Cape Fear (03030004)+, Northeast Cape Fear (03030007)+, Lynches (03040202)+, Lumber (03040203)+, Black (03040205)+, Waccamaw (03040206)+, Santee (03050112)+*, Cooper (03050201)+, Middle Savannah (03060106)+, Upper Ocmulgee (03070103)+, St. Marys (03070204)+, Lower St. Johns (03080103)+, Apalachee Bay-St. Marks (03120001)+, Upper Ochlockonee (03120002)+, Lower Ochlockonee (03120003)+, Upper Chattahoochee (03130001)+, Middle Chattahoochee-Lake Harding (03130002)+, Upper Flint (03130005)+, Apalachicola (03130011)+, Choctawhatchee Bay (03140102)+, Yellow (03140103)+, Blackwater (03140104)+, Conasauga (03150101)+*
04 Little Calumet-Galien (04040001)+, St. Joseph (04050001)+*, Black-Macatawa (04050002)+*, Kalamazoo (04050003)+, Lower Grand (04050006)+, Pere Marquette-White (04060101)+, Muskegon (04060102)+, Au Sable (04070007)+, Kawkawlin-Pine (04080102)+*, Ottawa-Stony (04100001)+, Lower Maumee (04100009)+, Niagara (04120104)+*, Oak Orchard-Twelvemile (04130001)+*, Oneida (04140202)+, Mettawee River (04150401)+
05 Tygart Valley (05020001)+, Upper New (05050001)+*, Middle Fork Kentucky (05100202)+*, South Fork Kentucky (05100203)+*, Lower Kentucky (05100205)+*, Upper Cumberland (05130101)+
06 Powell (06010206)+*, Hiwassee (06020002)+
07 La Crosse-Pine (07040006)+, Black (07040007)+, Castle Rock (07070003)+, Kankakee (07120001)+, Iroquois (07120002)+
08 Bayou D'arbonne (08040206)+, Little (08040304)+, Bayou Teche (08080102)+, Upper Calcasieu (08080203)+, Whisky Chitto (08080204)+
11 Frog-Mulberry (11110201)+, Dardanelle Reservoir (11110202)+, Mckinney-Posten Bayous (11140201)+, Loggy Bayou (11140203)+, Bodcau Bayou (11140205)+, Bayou Pierre (11140206)+, Lower Red-Lake Iatt (11140207)+, Black Lake Bayou (11140209)+, Cross Bayou (11140304)+
12 Middle Sabine (12010002)+*, Toledo Bend Reservoir (12010004)+*
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: Frosted elfin butterfly
General Description: A tailed grayish elfin found near wild indigo or lupine.
Diagnostic Characteristics: In the field the combination of tails on the hindwing and conspicuous frosted gray outer third and association with wild indigo or lupine are usually obvious and virtually diagnostic. Note also the dark spot near the base of the hind wing tails which is diagnostic if present. With a male specimen the presence of a stigma on the forewing above is diagnostic. The tails will separate this from C. polios and their habitats rarely overlap except in southeastern Massachusetts. C. henrici is similarly tailed, but much browner and in most places has a very different (usually forest) habitat. However worn late season females that have wandered out of their habitat can be confusing in the field. These will not show gray on the forewing beneath, are often quite tan on the outer forewing, and often have some white on the postmedian line of the hindwing (see Brock and Kaufman, 2004). Very gray variants of C. henrici such as one illustrated by Brock and Kaufman probably do not occur in the range of C. irus but would be very difficult or impossible to separate without a specimen.

Ecology Comments: Typically a metapopulation species and often absent from isolated habitats. Where present at all though patch occupancy is likely to be 100% or at least quite high, at least in New Jersey and northward. Scattered colonies within a large barrens or savanna community should be considered a metapopulation.
Habitat Type: Terrestrial
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: There are no known published data. However, Dale Schweitzer finds that in New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts and especially New Jersey that if a right of way or airport complex has this species at all, nearly every foodplant habitat patch is occupied or at least supports regular recurrence even those two or more kilometers away from nearest neighbor. This was also formerly true even on the Montague Plains in Massachusetts were lupine patches were small and roughly 1 to 5 kilometers apart and not connected by dispersal corridors-- but all known ones still were occupied in the 1970s. On the other hand in New Jersey and formerly around New Haven Connecticut some suitable but isolated Baptisia stands are unoccupied, although quite isolated patches sometimes are colonized. In some cases the source was unknown. The general pattern of occurrence is metapopulations with demes often a kilometer or two apart but commonly (not always) connected by fairly open habitat and often linear right of ways. This suggests very good colonizing ability across at least open landsacpes or along corridors over distances up to a few kilometers.
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Grassland/herbaceous, Savanna, Shrubland/chaparral, Woodland - Conifer, Woodland - Hardwood, Woodland - Mixed
Habitat Comments: Formerly more often in natural settings, such as grassy openings or burn scars in barrens and savannas, especially the lupine feeding version. Some more western populations still do occur in such settings as did some in New York at least through the 1970s. Most populations now are on sandy soils. Virtually all known Baptisia feeding populations and most Lupinus feeding ones now occur in anthropogenic habitats such as powerline and railroad right of ways, along sand or gravel roads through dry woods or pine barrens, and around old gravel pits. The few known really large populations are in the approach zones of airports. Presence of tree cover for shelter from the wind or for shade seems critical for the Baptisia feeder (but not the Lupinus feeder) and airport populations of it tend to concentrate near edges or groves of young pines. Habitats are often (especially for the Lupinus feeder) associated with degraded pine barrens or other formerly natural communities but by no means always. Lupinus feeders are apparently always found on xeric sands but the Baptisia feeders also occur on rocky outcrops and glacial till. Highway shoulders with the foodplants are generally not used probably in most cases because annual spring mowing kills all larvae. Traffic may also drive off adults. Adult males concentrate in open grass/foodplant patches in cool to moderate weather but often move to shaded edges at about 28 deg. C. Adults, especially of the Baptisia feeder, are virtually never seen more than 20 meters from stands of the foodplant. Both versions tolerate dormant season or late summer mowing very well and both sometimes colonize wildfire scars. Neither version seems favored by frequent prescribed burning although this may not be true in North Carolina considering that the lupine feeding version is surviving at Holly Shelter Gamelands. Ann Swengel finds the lupine feeder to be fire aversive in this context even though Schweitzer has found the underground pupae are virtually the only butterfly early stage to easily survive hot fires. This suggests adults actively leave such places, perhaps due to lack of nectar. Little is known about the role of fire in the ecology of the Baptisia feeder but its pupae are not in the soil and are exposed to fires.
Adult Food Habits: Nectarivore
Immature Food Habits: Herbivore
Food Comments: There are two ecotypes or (unlikely) sibling species. See also range vs. foodplant comments by Schweitzer in The News of the Lepidopterists' Society (1992). One feeds on Lupinus perennis and Lupinus difformis flowers and developing pods, and if necessary leaves in the last instar. The other (which according to the late Ronald Gatrelle includes the coastal Carolina subspecies arsace) on new foliage and later sometimes scrapes the stems of Baptisia tinctoria; and probably uses other species of Baptisia occasionally. Reports that the Baptisia feeder uses flowers are false, the larvae usually mature before flowers of B. tinctoria appear. No known population feeds on both genera and the two versions have never been found together even where the foodplants grow together. Many adults can be separated on color and maculation characters (but not all can be) and the larvae appear to differ but more need to be examined from other places. Larvae of the lupine feeder (Wisconsin, New York, and New Hampshire) are unmarked, those of the Baptisia feeders (New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts) have faint to prominent whitish chevrons. The two ecotypes are mostly allopatric but both occur (formerly at least) separately in two known counties: New Haven in Connecticut and Suffolk in New York. Adults are not often seen at nectar often but at least for the Baptisia feeder this is because they visit flowers very late in the day or early in the evening. The lupine feeder seems partial to small Prunus pensylvanica The Baptisia feeder apparently prefers several genera of Ericaceae.
Adult Phenology: Diurnal
Immature Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates
Phenology Comments: Most of the year is spent as pupae which are usually a cm or so below the soil surface for lupine feeder (New Hampshire, New York, and suspected in North Carolina) and in the surface litter for the Baptisia feeder (New Jersey). Adults fly in late spring about April 20 thorugh May in New Jersey (but one site in 1996 [a cold spring] had adults from April 23 to June 11), mostly in May-early June northward; apparently a shorter flight period in the last two thirds of April in North Carolina. Adults of the lupine feeder occur remarkably late, i.e. "April" (Minno, 1994), in Florida. Early and mid instar larvae overlap the latter part of the adult flight season in New Jersey with the last ones probably pupating about a month after the last adults die off.
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Stewardship Overview: Right of way management, deer, fire, and Gypsy Moth spraying are the main issues.In most of the range the most immediate needs include reducing threats from out of control deer and/or restoring sufficient habitat to connect now isolated small remnant colonies. In nearly all cases active management is needed to keep habitats open. Methods used will vary. Fire is directly lethal to the Baptisia feeding ecotype at any season, and apparently causes adults of the lupine feeder to leave the burned area even though pupal mortality is low. Nevertheless fire was a natural process in many habitats and the lupine feeding ecotype may be the only North American butterfly with any adaptation (in this case underground pupation) for surviving fires. If fire is used to maintain occurrences in more or less intact natural communities, follow guidelines for the Karner Blue or be slightly more conservative. The ideal management regimen for typical right of way or airport occurences is dormant season mowing every one to perhaps four years depending on local conditions. However, deer herbivory is increased the first spring when tall Baptisia stalks are suddenly the only vegetation over a few centimeters high.

For lupine feeding populations this species is best integrated into overall barrens or savanna management. Management schemes for the Karner Blue should suit frosted elfin very well although the elfin is more sensitive to deer impacts because the larvae need the flowers. While frosted elfins do not have a second brood like Karner Blues, underground pupae should have little mortality in most fires and the foodplants come up normally in spring. Nevertheless Swengel (1996a) finds the lupine feeding version to be "fire-aversive" suggesting some unfavorable habitat change, possibly lack of flowering heaths or of dry bunch grasses the first season.

Perhaps some day appropriate natural communities for the Baptisia feeders will be restored, but for now management involves maintaining right of ways and controlling deer. Recommended management is winter mowing every one to five years using machinery with as small a "footprint" as possible. Usually nectar plants will be adequate in unmowed edges. Baptisia feeders pupate at or just above the soil surface, probably among dry bunch grasses, and are not protected from fire. Gypsy Moth spraying could be an issue but with BTK it is unlikely a single application would eradicate an otherwise viable colony because some larvae would appear after application and/or start on new foliage not exposed to BTK.

Broadcast herbiciding and disking of powerlines recently destroyed a very large metapopulation occurrence in New Jersey. While late September 2002 herbiciding did not kill many Baptisia, nectar plants were severely impacted for two years, and worse much of the area was also disked which further damaged the foodplants and presumably killed nearly all pupae. A metapopulation covering several kilometers of powerline on a wildlife management area in two townships in Cumberland County was wiped out based on surveys through 2006. Another colony on a different powerline that was herbicided and also browsed heavily by deerb but not disked was reduced by about 90%. However as the vegetation, including nectar heaths, recovered this population increased substantially by 2006 to more than half its original size and it is expected to persist. Prior to the herbiciding these long-productive powerline occurrences had been winter mowed about every five years for decades and had been stable for more than 15 years, probably decades longer. Deer appear to have contributed to or outright caused the extripation the famous, but small, Assunpink, New Jersey colony in 2003, and the Nottingham, Pennsylvania population died out (permanently) during a brief period of severe deer impacts around 1990. Deer have also impacted Frosted Elfin and Karner Blues at Albany, New York and D. F. Schweitzer observed deer to eliminate a small lupine feeding deme (by eating all lupine flowers) in New Hampshire in the 1980s.

Although there are two much larger powerline colonies in New Jersey, there are few places aside from a few airports where one would expect to see more than 20 adults per visit in a single habitat. However, where Frosted Elfins do occur there are likely to be several such colonies within a few miles, for example elsewhere in the same powerline or barrens complex. Some colonies consist of only a few dozen adults on less than a hectare and probably cannot persist. In most cases survival probably depends on metapopulation dynamics and suitable dispersal corridors may be important since isolated foodplant stands, for example in old fields, are seldom occupied--at least not in southern New Jersey.

There are no data on the sensitivity of Frosted Elfin larvae to BTK and there is no basis to assume mid and late instars are or are not sensitive to it, but first and second instars would almost certainly have very high mortality. However, complete eradication of a substantial population from a single application would be unlikely because eggs are laid and larvae hatch over several weeks. BTK applications aimed at gypsy moth larvae would usually be near of before mid season meaning a significant number of larvae should hatch too late to receive a lethal dose. In addition at least with the Baptisia feeders, later larvae would be feeding on new leaf tissue not even present at spray time. However an application of Dimilin probably would eradicate an occurrence since a single feeding on sprayed foliage should be lethal, residue persists for weeks or months, and many larvae feed from stems, which would be contaminated, in the last instar. Gypsy moth larvae do not eat Baptisia and probably also avoid lupine so outbreaks themselves pose no known threats.

Management Research Needs: It would be very useful to understand the response of the lupine feeders to fire since pupae can survive even hot fires yet the species tends to be fire-aversive in the short term. In particular it would be useful to know about how long before conditions are again optimal. If, as Schweitzer suspects, this effect is due to loss of ericaceous and low rosaceous nectar shrubs, habitat recovery should take only a year or two.
Biological Research Needs: Both inventory and taxonomic research are needed. Response of BAPTISIA feeding version to fire needs better study,although short term mortality is obviously high or total in most cases.
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Location with substantial lupine or Baptisia in a plausible habitat, either open or sparsely wooded; where there is evidence of presence (or historical presence) and/or regular recurrence; in general minimally including a specimen or diagnostic photograph. Genuinely expert sight observations may be used if closely associated with one of the foodplants, especially in areas where C. HENRICI does not occur; however in most contexts sightings from butterfly watchers should not be used as the sole basis for an EO.
Mapping Guidance: When a large savanna or barrens complex supports a metapopulation EO the exact location of the major lupine or Baptisia patches should be indicated since protecting these discrete patches is crucial for conserving the EO. Note that all known populations feed on only one of these foodplant genera even when both are present, so if both lupine and Baptisia are present the EOR should state which plant is relevant. See ICAG for more information.
Separation Barriers: Adults do not penetrate far into forests but have been observed to fly or be blown over forest canopy in New Jersey. It is unclear though if they keep going or soon return to the open area. Still it is Schweitzer's impression that foodplant patches isolated from occurrences by more than about 2 kilometers of forest are unlikely to be colonized unless there are connecting roadsides with some foodplant.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 2 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Alternate Separation Procedure: When colonies occur on right of ways or in the cleared lands around airports use the suitable habitat distance for multiple colonies within the same artificial dry grassland or brushland system even if no concentrations of foodplants or adults are found, but use twice the unsuitable habitat distance accross exotic cool season grasses and weeds. However consider the possibility of connectivity along edges of woods, especially if the foodplant occurs on these edges. It is very unlikely an airport complex would ever be considered to have more than one occurrence, but a powerline could if there were truly large expanses of unsuitable habitat. Use the 2 kilometer distance across forests, wetlands and developed areas when colonies are not connected by roadsides or powerlines and are not part of a large barrens or savanna complex. A given natural community such as an oak savanna or pine barren should generally be considered to harbor only one metapopulation occurrence if multiple "colonies" occur. That is the suitable habitat distance should be used. It would be reasonable not to treat cut off remnants of the original community as separate (D or occasionally D-ranked) occurrences and recommended they not be if they are within the suitable habitat distance even if the habitat is no longer suitable. This species is not prone to existing as isolated colonies.
Separation Justification: The exact distances are a bit arbitrary and perhaps too low but based on some experience. Metapopulations within originally large natural communities such as the Albany, New York Pine Bush should not be split into multiple occurrences as the communities shrink and/or degrade if the intent is to define ecologically meaningful occurrences with some prospect for persistence. In large airport settings colonies may be much more localized than the Baptisia (or probably lupine), often in sheltered areas out of the wind. However persistent observation generally shows females disperse into the less occupied windy areas or calmer morning and that some larvae occur on these plants well away from places where adults are usually seen. This is highly consistent with other elfins in which ovipositing females are less localized than males. Small Baptisia or lupine patches within 2 or 3 km from substantial colonies are almost never unoccupied unless completely unconnected by roads etc. and generally within a powerline either all or none of the patches support colonies.
Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): 2 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: Use this only with multiple habitat patches within a large natural community or on powerline corridors, along railroads, around airports etc. Inferred extent then is generally all accessible habitat within two kilometers. See separation barriers. Do not infer presence over more than a kilometer or two of closed canopy forest. Note in most cases this distance will be appropriate over some linear area but not as a radius.
Date: 11Feb2004
Author: Schweitzer, Dale F.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 30Mar2008
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: D.F. Schweitzer
Management Information Edition Date: 19Mar2007
Management Information Edition Author: Schweitzer, Dale F.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 14Mar2008
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): SCHWEITZER, D.F.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

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