Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: ¾ - 1¼ inches (1.9 - 3.2 cm) UPPER SURFACE (dorsal) Rarely seen. Male dark brown with forewing stigma patch. Female lighter brown. UNDER SURFACE (ventral) Brown; strongly marked with gray, reddish brown, and black chevrons and bands. No tails.

ID Tip: Hindwing has complex and variably colored bands and chevrons. Wing fringes are checkered.

Egg: Pale green, flattened disc.  Usually laid singly at the base of host needles.

Caterpillar: Green with bold white stripes. Slug shaped.

Chrysalis: Dark brown; pellet shaped. The over-wintering stage.

Like all elfins, Eastern Pines are single-brooded spring fliers, but they tend to emerge later in the season and fly considerably longer than their relatives. In Alabama, they have been observed well into May, a late date for elfins. 

Eastern Pine Elfin habitat typically contains small to medium pines in addition to more mature trees. Males perch near the tops of trees while searching for females and engage in typical elfin/hairstreak joisting. Nectar sources must also be nearby, so mass-planted pine monocultures seldom support pine elfin populations.

Pine Elfins typically choose "hard pines" like Loblolly for their caterpillar hosts.  Early instar caterpillars eat needle sheaths, precisely duplicating their rusty red color. Final instars devour entire needles.  Tightly grasping the shafts with their legs, the stat at the top and methodically eat down to the base.  Bold stripes provide camouflage, and caterpillars blend with linearly patterned pine foliage.  

Pine Elfins range throughout much of the eastern United States. In Alabama, they are not often reported and seldom seen in numbers greater than one or two.

Distribution and Abundance

A dot on the county map indicates that there is at least one documented record of the species within that county. In some cases, a species may be common throughout the county, in others it may be found in only a specific habitat. The High Count information shows the highest numbers recorded for this species as well as when and where they occurred.

The sightings bar graphs depict the timing of flight(s) within each of three geographic regions. Place your cursor on a bar within the graph to see the number of individuals recorded during that period.

The abundance calendar displays the total number of individuals recorded within each week of the month. Both the graphs and the calendar are on based data collection that began in 2000.

The records analyzed here are only a beginning. As more data is collected, these maps and graphs will paint a more accurate picture of distribution and abundance in Alabama. Submit your sightings to

Sightings in the following counties: Baldwin, Bibb, Calhoun, Cherokee, Chilton, Cleburne, Colbert, Coosa, DeKalb, Jefferson, Lawrence, Pickens, Randolph, Shelby

  • Map Symbol for Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Map Symbol for Semi-Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Map Symbol for Old Sightings Sightings more than 10 years ago

High count(s):

  • 11 - Colbert - 4/8/2017
  • 2 - Shelby - 3/28/2018
  • 2 - Shelby - 4/19/2001
County Distribution Map

View county names by moving the mouse over a county or view a map with county names

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2 2 3 4 6 3 15 2 1 2 2 1 1 1


Open woodlands, brushy fields, mixed forests, scrub, glades, old fields, and utility easements. Typically in the vicinity of sapling pines. 

Eastern Pine Elfin
Eastern Pine Elfin (Callophrys niphon)
Shelby County
© Paulette Haywood Ogard
Open woodland with sapling pines

Host and Nectar Plants

Various hard pines (Pinus spp.) are reported.

The following has been documented in Alabama, but other pine species may also be used.

For more information about these plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the links above.

Eastern Pine Elfin
Eastern Pine Elfin (Callophrys niphon)
© Sara Bright
Loblolly Pine
Eastern Pine Elfin
Eastern Pine Elfin (Callophrys niphon)
© Sara Bright
Loblolly Pine
Eastern Pine Elfin
Eastern Pine Elfin (Callophrys niphon)
Cleburne County
© Sara Bright
Loblolly Pine

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