The Western Pine Elfin is a nickel-sized butterfly, stunningly banded with rich reddish-brown and black. After overwintering in its chrysalis stage, it emerges and takes to the air from May to June in pine forests. These butterflies perch with wings closed; the one in the photo demonstrates this as it sips nectar from heartleaf arnica. To see the upper surface you would have to catch it in flight. Males are aggressively territorial and perch on small trees or shrubs in forest clearings to await the females. Caterpillars feed on young needles of many pines, including ponderosa and lodgepole. These butterflies are common in the west, but are also found locally in the northern Great Lakes region.
Photo by Karen Weaver on 5/9/20 on Mount Jumbo near Missoula, MT