Frosted Elfin

Frosted Elfin butterfly.  Photo by David Arbour.
David Arbour

Category
Invertebrates

Description

Frosted elfins are small, gossamer-wing butterflies. The upperside of the wing is uniformly dark gray-brown in color while the underside is variegated with a dusting of pale scales on the hindwing. Males and females are similar in appearance but females tend to have an orange hue to the wings. In Oklahoma, the larvae are thought to be yellow.

Size

The wingspan is between 0.8 and 1.4 inches.

Habitat

These butterflies can be found in oak and pine woodlands, but are closely tied to their host plant of wild indigo. While the adults feed on a variety of flowering plants, they are rarely encountered more than 20 yards from a stand of indigo.

Life History

The frosted elfin completes its entire life cycle in one year. The adults emerge in early spring to mate and lay eggs on wild indigo host plants. The adult flight period lasts approximately 4 – 8 weeks; individual adults typically only live 1 – 2 weeks. After hatching, the larvae spend most of the year on or near the host plants.

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