Morgan Trail, Cleveland National Forest, Riverside County, CA. 5/24/13. © Peter J. Bryant.

Western Elfin (Brown Elfin)

Callophrys augustinus

Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae

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On Ceanothus integerrimus; Modjeska Pk, 5-30-10. © Ron Vanderhoff

On dodder (larval food plant). Woods End Preserve, Laguna Beach, CA. 2-4-09. © Peter J. Bryant.

Irvine Park, Orange, Orange County, CA. 2-28-06. © Ron Hemberger

Woods End Preserve, Laguna Beach, CA. 2-4-09. © Peter J. Bryant.

Characteristics: A very drab appearing butterfly. Dorsal wing brown. Ventral wing dark brown with dull reddish-brown patches. No tail-like projections present. Forewing length: 1214 mm.

Similar Species: The dorsal wing surfaces are similar to those of Callophrys dumetorum, but the ventral markings are quite different.

Habitats, Behavior: The Western Elfin is found in many different undisturbed habitats. It is sometimes encountered along streams, sipping from mud or moist sand. It is often found nectaring at Eriogonum fasciculatum (Wild Buckwheat) blossoms, and is usually easy to capture.

Distribution: Orange County records range from near sea level up to the highest peak in the county, Santiago Peak. It is likely to be found any place where the native vegetation is relatively undisturbed. The abundance of one of its major foodplants, dodder, not doubt accounts for its general distribution at lower elevations.

Flight Period: Our records extend from the middle of February into middle June with one July 1 record. Specimens at lower elevations are often captured in March, while the butterfly occurs no earlier than May in the Santa Ana Mountains (later emergence at higher elevations). Only one brood is suspected.

Larval Foodplants: The yellow string-like plant, dodder (Cuscuta spp.) is parasitic on many of our chaparral plants and may be the most widely used foodplant. In Orange County, iroides may conceivably also utilize California lilac (Ceanothus spp.); Chlorogalum pomeridianum (Soap Plant--of frequent occurrence in disturbed chaparral of foothills and mountains); and perhaps Madrone (Arbutus menziesii) in Upper Trabuco Canyon. Ceanothus could be the most widely utilized foodplant at higher elevations, dodder being utilized most frequently at lower elevations.

Other Remarks: The Western Elfin, although rarely picked up in great abundance in any one place, is nevertheless considered a common local butterfly.

From Orsak, L. J. (1977). The Butterflies of Orange County, California. Center for Pathobiology Miscellaneous Publication #3. University of California Press, New York. 349pp.

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