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

Callophrys iroides Scudder, 1872
Elfins; Western Elfin
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 Lane  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #637)

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

Species Information


The ground colour of the ventral hindwing of Western Elfins is a uniform reddish brown. By contrast, the Brown Elfin is chocolate brown.

Immature Stages

Comstock and Dammers (1933) described the egg as having a rich jade green colour. Hardy (GAH) observed the eggs to be pale green, and described the mature larva as follows: head dark brown; body greenish yellow; some individuals with stripes edged dorsally with white; some with spiracular fold white. He found that larvae fed on flowers had a different ground colour from those fed on leaves.


BC populations are the nominate subspecies, I. i. iroides (Boisduval, 1852); TL: Hwy. 70 at Soda Creek, Plumas Co., CA (Emmel et al. 1998a).

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 Western Elfin flies from mid-April to early June. The eggs are laid in the second half of April and hatch quickly; mature larvae pupate by early June on the coast (GAH). Hardy obtained oviposition in the lab on Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, and the hatched larvae fed on the surface of the leaves. Hardy also found larvae on salal, Gaultheria shallon, and Arbutus menziesii. On Vancouver Island, oviposition was observed on a salal flower and the larva reared to maturity by A.G. Guppy (pers. comm.). The pupa stays dormant and is the overwintering stage. On the coast, the Western Elfin is usually associated with salal (Guppy 1956; JHS) and arbutus (Arbutus menziesii) (FIS). Jones (1938) records it on ocean-spray (Holodiscus discolor). In the interior the Forest Insect Survey has reared it on Ceanothus sanguineus at Adams River. It has also been reared on apple at Victoria (Jones 1939) and at Salmon Arm by Dennys (CNC). The interior populations appear closest to California populations, which also feed on Ceanothus sp. (Powell 1968).


The Western Elfin is found across southern BC in open forests where Arbutus menziesii, Gaultheria shallon, or Ceanothus grow.



The Western Elfin ranges from southern BC south to Baja California and northern MEX.

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.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Callophrys augustinus

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: 2024-05-24 6:50:01 AM]
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