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

Callophrys augustinus augustinus Scudder, 1872
Brown Elfin; Elfins
Family: Lycaenidae (Gossamer Wings)
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
Photo of species

© Ian Gardiner  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #5866)

E-Fauna BC Static Map
Distribution of Callophrys augustinus augustinus in British Columbia
Details about map content are available here.

Species Information


The Brown Elfin and all other elfins lack tails. On the upperside of the wings, BC elfins are very similar. The underside of the wings provides the only good species distinguishing characteristics. The underside of the Brown Elfin is a fairly uniform chocolate brown with typical elfin median and postmedian pattern. Since the publication of The Butterflies of Canada, we have located more populations of this species in central BC, south of Pine Pass to Clinton. There do not seem to be any intermediate specimens between the populations of the Brown Elfin and the Western Elfin. The two are allopatric, with closely adjacent populations, and appear to be another western/boreaI species pair. Thus we re-elevate the Western Elfin, I. iroides, to species status. The Brown Elfin underside ground colour is chocolate brown, while that of the Western Elfin is reddish brown.

Immature Stages

Cook (1906) described the immature stages from New York. The egg is laid at the base of or in the flower buds. It is green when first laid but quickly changes colour as the larva develops. The egg hatches within five days. The larva feeds on the flower and developing fruit. The entire development from egg to pupa takes one month, from mid-May to mid-June. Pupation occurs on the ground among dead plant material. The pupa remains dormant until the following spring.


BC populations are the nominate subspecies (TL: 54° lat. [near Cumberland House, MB]).

Genus Description

The name Incisalia is of unknown derivation. The common name "elfins" refers to their small size and flight habits that make them seem to magically appear and disappear. It was first used for the genus by Scudder (1875).

Species of the genus Incisalia lack tails on the hindwing and green colouring on the ventral hindwings. The tips of the valves are "capped," meaning that they have a terminal thickening not found in the genera Callophrys, Mitoura, or Loranthomitoura. The cornuti are neither slender nor spatulate. This is a Nearctic genus, with nine species. Six species occur in BC.


The Brown Elfin flies from late April to mid-June. Cook (1906) demonstrated that Brown Elfin larvae feed on Vaccinium sp. Ziegler (1953) reared the Brown Elfin on Arctostaphylos uva-ursi. Arctostaphylos is the most likely BC foodplant.


The Brown Elfin is known from the Central Interior of BC. Since little collecting has been done in northern BC during the species flight period in early spring, the species will likely be recorded across central and northern BC, east of the coastal mountains.



The Brown Elfin ranges from YT and central BC east to NF. In the east it is found south to the southern shores of the Great Lakes and in the Appalachians south to GA.

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
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) 2021. 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: 2024-05-23 4:05:06 PM]
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