Cheryl Harner's Flora and Butterfly Blog
Weedpicker's Journal: Discover the native plants of Ohio and the butterflies that utilize them.
Frosted Elfin May 12, 2008

Taking advantage of the trip to the lake for birding, I also arranged to walk the butterfly transect at Kitty Todd. Owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy, Kitty Todd is an oak opening with sand dunes of Wild Blue Lupine, Hoary Puccoon and a host of other interesting plants and species of fauna. Red-headed Woodpeckers abound in this virtual Garden of Eden, and with any luck you could come across a blue-racer snake.

But I was after the butterfly. THE BUTTERFLY: Frosted Elfin, Callophyrus irus. With only one brood a year, and an early brood at that, this enigmatic lover of the lupine is a special treat for lepidopterist. The Karner Blue may be better known, because it was once extirpated, but I would guess even fewer people have seen the Frosted Elfin, due to its earliness and rarity.

Like the Karner Blue, its host plant is the Wild Blue Lupine, Lupinus perennis, and the adult lays its eggs on the flower buds. Tiny little Frosted Elfin caterpillars feed on the blossoms and emerge as butterflies the following spring. The Ohio charts say they fly May-June, however one of the best authorities, Jackie Riley, the butterfly monitor at Kitty Todd first saw them on April 19th this year. Butterflies tend to have extremely short lives, and we were concerned they might not last until my trip in mid-May. Certainly, they will be gone long before June.

This tiny little "lep" is a senior citizen in the butterfly world. Most of the soft powdery frost has been knocked off her wings by now, and she has more color than one would normally expect in a Frosted Elfin. But she put on quite a show, and fluttered to and from the lupine buds, most likely doing exactly what we hoped she would do- laying eggs. This was most reassuring, as the Oaks has recently undergone a proscribed burn to maintain the vegetation balance, and it is good to know the dime-sized guys are still there.

Thanks again to the very kind Jackie Riley and Jan Dixon for allowing me to tag along on their transects; the bonus Lark Sparrow sighting was especially grand!

2008-05-12 09:48:53 GMT
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