Frosted Elfin

Frosted elfin (Callophrys irus)

Frosted elfins are tiny brown butterflies with a wingspan of 1 to 1.25 inches. They are brown above and mottled gray and brown on the undersides of their wings. Look for an irregular line that spearates silvery brown from darker brown on the underside of the wings as well as a small tail on the hindwing. Frosted elfins overwinter as pupae with adults emerging in the spring to mate and lay eggs.  Larvae feed on the flowers and seed pods of wild blue lupine and, in other locations, wild indigo. Due to loss of habitat, frosted elfin populations are declining. In NYS, frosted elfins are listed as a threatened species.


Habitat: Frosted elfins rely on open forests, savannas and pine barrens where their host plants grow. The inland pine barrens of the Albany Pine Bush is home to both wild blue lupine and frosted elfin butterflies. 


Cool facts:

  • The frosted elfin's name comes from the gray scales along the margins of their wings, giving them a frosted appearance. 
  • The emergence of adult frosted elfins in the spring is closely tied to temperature.

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