The Bog Elfin (Callophrys lanoraieensis)

By Melissa Simpson, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forests, Eastern Region

The Bog Elfin (Callophrys lanoraieensis) belongs to the family Lycaenidae, subfamily Theclinae, commonly referred to as the “hairstreaks”. The name is given on account of the fine, hair-like markings which extend across the under surface of the hind wings. In many species, there is a tailed projection or two on the hind inner margin of the hind wing.

Bog eflin.
Adult Bog Elfin. Photo by Tom Murray of the Massachusetts Butterfly Club.

A black spruce bog.
A black spruce bog on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in northern Wisconsin, ideal habitat for the Bog Elfin. Photo by Melissa Simpson.

The preferred habitat for the Bog Elfin is acidic black spruce and tamarack bogs, with its host plant being black spruce (Picea mariana). The Bog Elfin is a small, tailless butterfly with a wingspan of 7/8 to 15/16 inch (22 to 24 millimeters). On the dorsal wing surface, females are brown and males are more orange. The ventral surface has a reduced or not clearly marked pattern, with gray along the outer margin.

There is a single adult flight period from mid-May to early-June, during which time the adults generally perch on tree tops or fly around during sunny weather. They are univoltine and caterpillars usually feed only on new growth of black spruce. First instar caterpillars bore into and feed inside spruce needles, while later instars feed from the outside. Larvae mature by the beginning of July and most of the year is spent as a pupa.

The Bog Elfin has one of the most restricted ranges of any butterfly in eastern North America. It has a NatureServe global ranking of G3, “Vulnerable” because it is considered globally uncommon. It is known from only four New England states and four Canadian provinces, where there are fewer than 50 occurrences of this species. Certain documented populations contain thousands of individuals, mostly in and near Maine. This species has a limited range and appears to be absent from most of its suitable habitat, though there are many bogs within its range that have likely not been surveyed for this species. Threats to this species include peat mining and pesticide spraying for black fly and spruce budworm.

Distribution map and NatureServe ranking.
Distribution map and NatureServe ranking.

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