Hoary Elfin

Callophrys polios

Prior to Ebner’s Butterflies of Wisconsin (1970), there had been only 7 specimens of Hoary Elfin, recorded from only two counties. It has now been recorded from 15 counties, mostly from the northern part of the state. This is not surprising since the Hoary Elfin is mainly a northern butterfly, being found throughout Canada and into Alaska.

The host plant of this species in Wisconsin is bearberry, which also has a statewide distribution but is also found more commonly in the northern part of the state. This species is closely associated with bearberry and is rarely found far from the plant.

Weekly sightings for Hoary Elfin

Identifying characteristics

The Hoary Elfin is mainly brownish below, with little or no white on the postmedian line of the hindwing. The outer margin of the hindwing and the forewing contain a lighter frosted area.

Similar species

The Frosted Elfin and Henry’s Elfin also have frosting on the hindwing margin, but the Hoary Elfin is the only Elfin with frosting on the forewing margin.


Pine barrens and woodland edges where its host plant bearberry is found.


One brood. Has been observed from late April until early June.


Found throughout the northern half of the state, and less common southward. Like most of the Elfins in the state, you are not likely to see more than a handful of this species on any given day, but in very good habitat this species is abundant, and I have seen more than 50 in a day.


Map showing sighting locations for Hoary Elfin
Map key
Hoary ElfinClick to enlarge

West of Wazee Park, Jackson Co., WI. May 29, 2005.

Hoary ElfinClick to enlarge

North Brockway Road, Jackson Co., WI. April 23, 2006.

Hoary ElfinClick to enlarge

Perching on its host plant bearberry

North Brockway Road, Jackson Co., WI. May 5, 2006.

Hoary ElfinClick to enlarge

Bearberry in flower

North Brockway Road, Jackson Co., WI. May 6, 2006.