North American Butterfly Association

Frosted Elfin

NABA awarded Frosted Elfin Grant
by State of Texas


The North American Butterfly Association (NABA) has been awarded a 2017–2018 Conservation License Plate grant from the Wildlife Diversity Program of Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD) to determine the current status of Frosted in Texas. The populations of this butterfly have been declining nationwide and there are very few recently-documented Texas locations for this butterfly. Because Conservation License Plate grants are one-year projects, the success of this NABA project depends partly on the knowledge and involvement of Texas citizens. We believe that you, and other people you may know, can play a significant role in helping make this TPWD-funded project a success. Approved volunteers will be reimbursed for reasonable travel expenses.

Our project will attempt to confirm the continued existence of Frosted Elfins at the few recently-documented Texas locations for that butterfly but the project’s primary goal is to search for additional populations of Frosted Elfin in and near areas where they were historically recorded. Just as Monarchs are closely associated with milkweeds, Frosted Elfins are associated with wild indigos, plants in the genus Baptisia. Our project will key in on areas where there are known good stands of the wild indigos in eastern Texas and have citizen scientists go to those specific wild indigo locations and search for the butterflies and/or caterpillars during the late February 2018 through early May 2018 timeframe.

Frosted Elfins in Texas

In Texas, Frosted Elfins are small non-migratory butterflies that fly in the early spring. Female elfins lay their eggs on wild indigo plants, usually Blue Wild Indigo or Yellow Wild Indigo, and the caterpillars dine exclusively on their wild indigo plants until they turn into a chrysalis. The chrysalis will remain in that life stage until the early spring of the following year, when an adult butterfly will emerge again to complete the elfin’s life cycle. The butterflies can be found on unmowed roadsides but their natural habitat is open pine or oak woodlands where wild indigo is common. The east Texas Piney Woods is an example of this butterfly’s habitat. You can see pictures of the adult butterfly, caterpillars, and its host plants by clicking here.

There are reports of Frosted Elfins from 31 counties in Texas, all in the eastern part of the state. A map of these counties can be viewed by clicking here. Our one-year project will focus on finding additional populations of the elfin on the larger conservation lands of greater than 500 acres in those 31 counties. A list of those conservation lands for each of the 31 counties can be found here. However, if resources and time permits, the grant’s project study area can expand into surrounding counties, especially if compelling evidence is provided that warrants surveying for Frosted Elfins outside of the 31 counties. A map of a possible expanded Frosted Elfin study area can be viewed here.

How you can help!