North American Range
A northern and mountain species, the Brown Elfin is the plainest of the Vermont elfins. Cryptically colored, males perch on shrubs in open areas to watch for females. Often, after flying out to meet a potential mate, they will return to the same central perch, or one close to it. Eggs are laid singly on flower buds of host plants and caterpillars feed on flowers and fruits. After hibernating in the chrysalis, pupation takes place in litter at the base of the host plant.
A small brown butterfly with no tails. Upperside of male gray-brown; female reddish brown. Underside chestnut brown with dark, irregular postmedian line; hindwing darker at base.
One generation from early May through early June. In other northern areas reported into July. Extreme dates: 5 May 2006 in Pownal (K. Hemeon) and 6 June 2006 in Lewis (B. Pfeiffer).
Distribution and Habitat
During VBS found only in northeastern and extreme southern Vermont. Unknown if actually not in south-central areas or if habitat undersampled during flight period.
They tend to prefer acidic, low nutrient habitats such as barrens, bogs, or dry pine-oak woods. During VBS found predominantly in spruce bogs or poor fens, but also found on pitch pine-oak-heath rocky summit (Dummerston, K.P. McFarland).
Adults nectar from flowers including blueberry (Vaccinium), Spicebush (Lindera), willows (Salix), and cherry (Prunus). Favored hostplant are species in the heath family (Ericaceae), prefer lowbush blueberries (Vaccinium angustifoilum) in Massachusetts. Also V. vacillans and Black Huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata). Other reported hosts: Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), Leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata), Rhododendron and Labrador Tea (Ledum groenlandicum). Also known to oviposit on Sheep Laurel (Kalmia angustifolia), but larvae refuse it (Scott 1986).