Callophrys niphon - (Hübner, [1819]) (1793)
Eastern Pine Elfin
Other English Common Names: eastern pine elfin
Synonym(s): Callophrys (Incisalia) niphon (Hübner, 1823) ;Incisalia niphon (Hübner, 1823)
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Callophrys niphon (Hübner, 1819) (TSN 188504)
French Common Names: lutin des pins
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.114395
Element Code: IILEPE2240
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
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 niphon
Taxonomic Comments: Very similar to C. ERYPHON.
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 14Jun2016
Global Status Last Changed: 01Sep1998
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Subspecies clarki is very widespread and common over a huge area in Canada and New England and not rare in the upper Midwest and this subspecies drives the rank of the full species. Subspecies niphon is very much less common, especially southeastward. It would seem to merit an S5 rank in New Jersey though, and S3 or S4 in several other states, especially in the mid-Appalachian region, so that subspecies too would probably rank T5. However the species is remarkably uncommon south of New Jersey considering how dominant pines are on the coastal plain.
Nation: United States
National Status: N5 (01Sep1998)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N5 (14Jun2016)

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 (S3S4), Connecticut (S5), Delaware (S4), District of Columbia (SNR), Florida (S2), Georgia (S4?), Indiana (S2S4), Kentucky (S3S4), Louisiana (SU), Maine (S5), Maryland (S4), Massachusetts (S5), Michigan (S4S5), Minnesota (S4), Mississippi (SNR), Missouri (S4?), New Hampshire (S5), New Jersey (S5), New York (S5), North Carolina (S4), Oklahoma (S2), Pennsylvania (S4), Rhode Island (S3), South Carolina (S2S4), Tennessee (S5), Texas (SNR), Vermont (S5), Virginia (S4), West Virginia (S4)
Canada Alberta (S3), British Columbia (S1S3), Manitoba (S5), New Brunswick (S5), Northwest Territories (SNR), Nova Scotia (S2), Ontario (S5), Quebec (S5), Saskatchewan (S5)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: >2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Nova Scotia west to Alberta, southeast to Texas and states bordering Gulf of Mexico.

Area of Occupancy: >12,500 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments:  

Number of Occurrences: > 300

Population Size: >1,000,000 individuals

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Very many (>125)

Overall Threat Impact: Medium

Short-term Trend: Relatively Stable (<=10% change)
Short-term Trend Comments: More or less stable in Canada and the northern tier of US states, and probably also most of its US range except possibly in the southeast coastal plain where it may be declining. Increasing in parts of the Midwest and maybe elsewher where colonies can form on introduced pines.

Long-term Trend: Decline of <50% to Relatively Stable

Intrinsic Vulnerability Comments: Adaptable; upon loss of usual hosts, utilizes ornamental species of pine.

Environmental Specificity: Broad. Generalist or community with all key requirements common.
Environmental Specificity Comments: Subspecies clarki (including blend zone populations in southern New England) is very broad and can be common in almost any setting where any pine is common, or even where white pine occurs in small patches in forests or wooded residential yards. Subspecies niphon obviously has some unknown important requirements that make it increasingly rare southward. In southern New Jersey adults are more localized than larvae which indicates females are dispersive and there is probably some preference for dry or scrubby habitats butt all three common pines are major foodplants. Still the pine elfin is close to ubiquitous in much of that region. South of there the species becomes inexplicably localized except in the mountains and in some states even rare. For example while much to most of the landscape in the coastal Carolinas to Florida is covered with foodplants, this butterfly is decidedly uncommon to rare. Planted loblolly pines are used in New Jersey as are the pitch-pond pine intergrades along Delaware Bay very commonly. So foodplant is not a likely explanation for scarcity south of there. Apparently adults require some increasingly scarce habitat feature.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) Nova Scotia west to Alberta, southeast to Texas and states bordering Gulf of Mexico.

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, IN, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WV
Canada AB, BC, MB, NB, NS, NT, ON, QC, SK

Range Map
No map available.

U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
FL Liberty (12077), Okaloosa (12091), Putnam (12107)
PA Lebanon (42075)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
02 Lower Susquehanna-Swatara (02050305)+
03 Upper St. Johns (03080101)+, Lower Ochlockonee (03120003)+, Choctawhatchee Bay (03140102)+, Yellow (03140103)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Basic Description: Butterfly, Lycaenidae.
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Palustrine Habitat(s): Bog/fen, FORESTED WETLAND
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Forest - Conifer, Forest - Hardwood, Forest - Mixed, Suburban/orchard, Woodland - Conifer, Woodland - Mixed
Habitat Comments: In general pine dominated or mixed pine forest or woodland. Subspecies CLARKI from about Massachusetts northward is quite general in any kind of pine woods and also routinely in primarily deciduous woodland or forest with some white pine. Typical NIPHON is fairly general but showing a preference for young pines in southern new Jersey but becomes much more restricted southward where its habitats are poorly understood. Both subspecies can occur with isolated plantings of non-native pines. Use of wetlands is limited but pitch or jack pines growing on bogs are used northward and some southern pitch pine or pond pine associated populations are in areas classified as wetland.
Food Comments: Larvae feed on pines, including commonly white pine for subspecies CLARKI. PItch and Virginia pines are also major hostplants.
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Management Summary Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Delineation
Group Name: Callophrys in part (Green Hairstreaks, Elfins, etc.)

Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: A location where the species occurs, or has occurred with potential for persistence or regular recurrence. Minimally suitable habitat with foodplants where presence is verified by a specimen or photograph. High quality EOs may be metapopulations.
Mapping Guidance: For some species such as C. MOSSI each patch of the foodplant may need to be mapped. For many plant community boundaries can be useful in defining EOs. For all of them the EO is no larger than the community supporting the foodplant patches. Consult the habitat and food comments fields for species-specific information on what constitutes suitable habitat when mapping occurrences.
If habitats occur within an discrete community matrix such as within chaparral or pine barrens communities, all occurrences within the community should be regarded as one metapopulation EO. In many cases the plant community boundaries can be used for mapping it. Likewise in many cases all colonies in a given canyon or on a ridgeline would be one EO.
Note that for open habitat species forested patches are not habitat even if the foodplant occurs, while a few such as most redbud, holly, and RHAMNUS feeding populations of C. HENRICI do not make much use of open areas.

Separation Barriers: For most species urbanized or very open environments with no trees, shrubs, or foodplants are probably barriers. For most of the open habitat species forests may be barriers although it is not known if the adults simply fly over them. Brushy habitats and small expanses of shaded residential area do not normally constitute barriers to forest or woodland species.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 2 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Justification: Good data are few and habitat patch size varies enormously for the various species and with geography. Arnold (1983) working with remnant colonies of the Endangered C. MOSSI BAYENSIS documented maximum movements of only about 250 meters and says that colonies of the species occupy only up to 25 hectares. However this is an endangered taxon and this relictual colony may well have lost any dispersal tendencies. On the other hand D. Schweitzer has found single colonies of C. HENRICI in New Jersey often occupy 50-500 hectares and some of those would be best treated as merely demes in larger metapopulations. Some populations of C. AUGUSTINUS in that state appear to occupy more than 5000 hectares and certainly some populations of C. NIPHON occupy far larger areas than that. In general adults, at least females, probably move freely throughout habitat patches whatever their size but seldom leave them. An exception seems to be C. NIPHON at least in southern New Jersey where Schweitzer has collected larvae at three sites where he has never seen adults and that do not appear to be suitable adult habitat, one of them a single isolated roadside pine. Also in New Jersey has collected a female C. POLIOS more than 10 km from any known foodplant and isolated hollies sometimes have a few C. henrici larvae. Females of these species must disperse rather widely. Males of all species occupy definite perching areas (sometimes loosely called lekking areas), and for some species (HENRICI, IRUS) these may be much more restricted than where females lay eggs and thus adults eclose. Thus by casual observation the occurrence can appear far more localized than it really is. In New Jersey C. HENRICI seems much more localized at peak season than it does later when females wander widely through the forests. C. NIPHON is a notoriously good colonizer of planted pines. Despite all of this, observations of individuals even 100 meters out of at least marginal habitat are rare and so short separation distances seem warranted across unsuitable habitats, even though these should not preclude some gene flow. Species such as C. NIPHON, HENRICI, POLIOS, and AUGUSTINUS do seem to routinely occupy all suitable habitat even where it is extensive. In fact in some areas where pines are the dominant trees for many kilometers, occurrences of C. NIPHON are virtually indefinable. Thus it is reasonable to assume that observations 10 kilometers apart separated by largely suitable habitat do represent one occurrence for at least most species.
Since at least most species do colonize small scraps of habitat within a few kilometers of established colonies, C. IRUS most consistently so (Schweitzer), the ten kilometer distance should be used when major occurrences are separated by an intervening landscapes containing many patches of foodplant in at least marginal habitat with no gaps of more than two kilometers. Adults probably also recognize gross vegetation features such as forest, grassland or brushland and obviously inappropriate situations (e.g. open fields for C. HENRICI, dense swamps for most or all others) should be treated as unsuitable.

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): 2 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: This applies only in suitable habitats. The figure is arbitrary. In practice few habitats are that large, and in such cases inferred extent is the entire habitat At least species such as NIPHON, AUGUSTINUS, POLIOS and HENRICI which often occupy large habitats usually occupy all available habitat where they occur. For these species occurrences in this range (ca. 1000 hectares) are not unusual, although all of them also have occurrences of only a few hectares. C. IRUS and probably C. MOSSI occur in smaller patches but these are usually clustered and typically nearly all occupied and some metapopulations of the former occupy more than 1000 hectares (at least in New Jersey and New York). Still there are sufficient unknowns that occurrence over a large area should not be assumed on the basis of one observation,
Date: 19Jul2001
Author: Schweitzer, D.F.
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 10May2005
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Schweitzer, D.F.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 14May2001
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).

  • 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.

  • Pelham, J. P. 2008. A catalogue of the butterflies of the United States and Canada with a complete bibliography of the descriptive and systematic literature. The Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera. Volume 40. 658 pp.

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