Changes to land use and disturbance frequency threaten disturbance-dependent Lepidoptera within sandplain habitats of the northeastern United States. The frosted elfin (Callophrys irus) is a rare and declining monophagous butterfly that is found in xeric open habitats maintained by disturbance. We surveyed potential habitat for adult frosted elfins at four sites containing frosted elfin populations in southeastern Massachusetts, United States. Based on the survey data, we used kernel density estimation to establish separate adult frosted elfin density classes, and then used regression tree analysis to describe the relationship between density and habitat features. Adult frosted elfin density was greatest when the host plant, wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria), density was >2.6 plants/m2 and tree canopy cover was <29%. Frosted elfin density was inversely related to tree cover and declined when the density of wild indigo was <2.6 plants/m2 and shrub cover was ???16%. Even small quantities of non-native shrub cover negatively affected elfin densities. This effect was more pronounced when native herbaceous cover was <36%. Our results indicate that management for frosted elfins should aim to increase both wild indigo density and native herbaceous cover and limit native tree and shrub cover in open sandplain habitats. Elimination of non-native shrub cover is also recommended because of the negative effects of even low non-native shrub cover on frosted elfin densities. The maintenance of patches of early successional sandplain habitat with the combination of low tree and shrub cover, high host plant densities, and the absence of non-native shrubs appears essential for frosted elfin persistence, but may also be beneficial for a number of other rare sandplain insects and plant species. ?? 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Additional publication details
Habitat characteristics of adult frosted elfins (Callophrys irus) in sandplain communities of southeastern Massachusetts, USA