E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia

Erebia mancinus Dalman, 1816
Alpines; Disa Alpine
Family: Nymphalidae (Brushfoots)
Species account authors: Crispin Guppy and Jon Shepard.
Extracted from Butterflies of British Columbia
The Families of Lepidoptera of BC
Introduction to the Butterflies of BC

© Norbert Kondla  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #8214)

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Distribution of Erebia mancinus in British Columbia.
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Species Information


Taiga Alpines are dark brown, appearing almost black. They have four eyespots on the dorsal forewing, surrounded by a diffuse orange area. There are no eyespots on the hindwings. The most characteristic feature is a small white spot near the centre of the ventral hindwing, with a second grey white spot usually present on the front edge.

Taiga Alpines have traditionally been considered a subspecies of the Disa Alpine (Erebia disa, which occurs from Scandinavia across the northern Asian and North American arctic as far east as Bathurst Inlet, NU. Taiga Alpines and Disa Alpines have different male genitalia, as described by Layberry et al. (1998) and shown in illustrations by Warren (1936). The saccus is a blunt triangle in disa, but is long, narrow and spikelike in mancinus. Taiga Alpines have larger submarginal spots, much more extensive red flushing around the spots, and a more even coloration of the ventral hindwing than Disa Alpines (Layberry et al. 1998). In addition, the third and fourth spots on the forewing of Disa Alpines are displaced outward relative to the front two spots, and usually are smaller than the front two spots. All four spots are usually roughly in line on Taiga Alpines, and the third and fourth spots are usually larger than the first two spots. The two species have been found flying together by Shepard at several locations in the northern Northwest Territories, along the Dempster Highway, east of the Richardson Mountains (JHS).

Immature Stages



None. The type locality of the species is Rock Lake, near Jasper, AB (Shepard 1984).

Genus Description

The name Erebia is derived from the Greek Erebus, the region of darkness situated between earth and Hades (Reed 1871), in reference to the dark, dusky colour (Emmet 1991). The common name "alpines" was first used by Holland (1898) in reference to the alpine habitat of many species.

Alpines are medium-sized dark brown to black butterflies that have either submarginal eyespots or a red-flushed area on the forewings. In species with eyespots, there are usually orange-flushed areas around the spots. There are about 80 species worldwide, most of which are slow-flying.

The life histories of only some species are known. In these species, eggs are laid singly on leaves of grasses or sedges. They are white, cream, or yellow brown, and conical in shape with vertical ribs down the sides. First instar larvae are thinly covered with hairs, and are greenish with longitudinal stripes. Mature larvae are slender, and yellow green with light and dark longitudinal stripes down the back and sides. They are thinly covered with hairs, and may have two short tails. Alpines hibernate as partly grown larvae, and there are five or six instars. Pupae are roughly cylindrical, rounded, and suspended from a cremaster. They are pale brown. All alpines have only one generation each year, and some may take two years to mature. Erebia youngi and E. lafontainei are occasionally difficult to separate reliably (worn specimens), in which case they can be distinguished by the shape of the valves of the male genitalia.


Taiga Alpines are in flight in June and July, and fly every year in BC. They appear to fly in alternate years in some areas, suggesting a two-year life cycle. Taiga Alpines in central Canada are usually restricted to bogs of black spruce and sphagnum, especially bogs with tall, dense stands of pure spruce. Strays occur in more open bogs or nearby road openings. There is a tendency to avoid bright sunlight, with most flight activity occurring before 11:00 AM and after 4:00 PM, or in the midday period on cloudy days. The butterflies fly slowly and steadily about 1 m off the ground straight through the spruce bog, and prefer to land in partial sunlight on low foliage near the base of a spruce tree. Jutta Arctics are usually found associated with Taiga Alpines. Each population of Taiga Alpines is apparently biennial, but populations in a given area alternate randomly with each other in flying in odd or even years (Masters 1969). The biology of Taiga Alpines has not been studied in BC, but is apparently similar to that in central Canada. Larval foodplants are unknown, but are likely grasses or sedges.


Taiga Alpines inhabit spruce bogs across northern BC.



Taiga Alpines occur from central AK and northern YT south to northern BC, east to Labrador and to MN in the USA. They occur in most of the boreal forests of North America, as well as wet tundra in the northern YT.

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
NativeS5YellowNot Listed
BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Additional Photo Sources

General References

Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2019. E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia [efauna.bc.ca]. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed: 2020-07-12 6:16:15 AM]
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