Oeneis chryxus
Chryxus Arctic

Family Description:
This is really a complex made up of several species or subspecies, including chryxus, strigulosa, and calais.
The caterpillar is greenish to brownish green, covered with reddish hair, and striped lengthwise along the body with a number of different colored stripes, including yellowish, white, and brownish. The yellowish head is striped with brown. It can reach a maximum length of 1 inches.
Adult: The butterfly is medium-sized, with a wingspan of 1 to 2 inches, and it varies in appearance. The upperside can be off-white, yellowish, orangish, or brownish orange, possibly bordered by gray or brown. Typically it is marked with one to several small, dark eyespots on the forewing and one or two on the hindwing. Males have a stigma (region of scent scales used in attracting females) on the forewing that often appears as a dark cloudy area near the center. Underneath, the forewing is orangish to light brown; the eyespots from above show through, and it may be additionally marked with a dark to faint irregular line. The hindwing is mottled black, brown, gray and white, and marked with one small dark eyespot and possibly a wide, brownish band of color across the center.

This species ranges from eastern Alaska and the Yukon Territory across Canada to southern Quebec; in the U.S., it ranges from Washington along the Rockies to northern New Mexico. It also occurs in central California and in parts of Utah, Nevada, and the Great Lakes region. It can be found through much of Idaho.


It occurs in a variety of habitats, including tundra, forest openings, meadows, northern prairies, and rocky slopes.


Caterpillar: Caterpillars feed on select grasses (Poaceae) such as poverty oat-grass (Danthonia spicata) and Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis).
Adult: Butterflies drink flower nectar. They are often found "puddling" at muddy seeps where they gather salts and nutrients by sipping moisture.


There is one new generation of caterpillars each summer in most locations. Young caterpillars overwinter in a physiological state called diapause. They emerge in spring to feed and molt, then enter diapause again for a second winter, this time as grown or nearly grown caterpillars. The process can be synchronized in certain populations, resulting in the appearance of adults only every other year in some locations. Adults generally fly from the first of May through August.


Males perch to wait for receptive females. Females lay eggs singly on grasses (Poaceae).

Idaho Status: Unprotected nongame species.
Global Rank: G5
populations are widespread, abundant, and secure.

Ferris, C. D. and F. M. Brown. (eds.) 1981. Butterflies of the Rocky Mountain States. Univ. of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, USA, 442 pp.

Opler, P. A., H. Pavulaan, and R. E. Stanford. 1995. Butterflies of North America. Jamestown, North Dakota, USA: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Home Page. http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/distr/lepid/bflyusa/bflyusa.htm (Version 05Nov98).

Opler, P. A. and A. B.Wright. 1999. A Field Guide to the Western Butterflies.   Second Edition.  Peterson Field Guide Series. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, New York, USA, 540 pp.

Pyle, R. M. 1981. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, New York, USA, 924 pp.

Scott, J. A. 1986. The Butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, USA, 583 pp.

Stanford, R. E. and P. A. Opler. 1993. Atlas of Western U.S.A. Butterflies (Including Adjacent Parts of Canada and Mexico). Published by authors, Denver, Colorado, USA, 275 pp.