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

Erebia mackinleyensis Dalman, 1816
Alpines; Beringian 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

Photo of species

© Ian Gardiner  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #76832)

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

Species Information


Mt. McKinley Alpines are larger than any other alpine except the Magdalena Alpine, and a re a strikingly dark brown to black. There is usually at least a trace of a red flush on the dorsal wings, which is very prominent in the northern Yukon. Males and females lack white hairs on the ventral wing surface. Antennae clubs are testaceous to two-toned yellow. In the uncus of the male genitalia, the spination is expanded onto the inner surface (Hilchie 1990).

Immature Stages

Eggs are cream-coloured, oval, and taller than wide, and have rounded ridges down the sides. Larvae are indistinguishable from those of the Magdalena Alpine (Hilchie 1990).


The type locality is Sable Pass, Mt. McKinley National Park, AK. The taxon mackinleyensis was described on 31 December 1932, but erinnyn has date priority by two weeks and thus apparently is the correct species name. However, as discussed by Ferris (1989), erinnyn is the accusative case of erynnis and therefore cannot be used (ICZN Article 11.9.1). The first available name is therefore E. mackinleyensis.

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.


Mt. McKinley Alpines are in flight in June and July, and have a one-year life cycle. They inhabit boulder fields on high alpine mountain summits and slopes. The boulders are covered with black lichens, with which the black adults blend when resting. Natural larval foodplants are unknown, but are probably most grasses and sedges found within the species' habitat.


Mt. McKinley Alpines are known only from Summit Lake in BC, but they also occur on Montana Mountain, YT, just north of the northwestern BC border. They are likely to occur in the mountains across northern BC, on barren rock rubble slopes and peaks.



Mt. McKinley Alpines occur from Siberia east across AK to the YT/NT border, and south to northern BC.

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
NativeS1S3RedNot 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) 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: 2024-07-17 10:28:51 PM]
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