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Oeneis uhleri

What do they look like?

Uhler's Arctic butterfly is a type of butterfly called a brush foot. This means that the first pair of legs on the butterfly is shorter than the rest of the legs and look like a brush. This butterfly is an orange-brown color with many small spots. It is about 1.5 cm long, weighs about 0.35 grams, and has a wingspan of 4.5 cm on average. Females are a little bit larger than males, and also have rounder wings than males. The front wings of Uhler's Arctic are pale gray with a dark brown pattern on them.

The caterpillars of Oeneis uhleri are greenish tan with grey and black stripes. ("Attributes of Oeneis uhleri", 2014; "The Butterflies of the World Foundation: Uhler's Arctic", 2004; A. Layberry, et al., 2002; Bromilow, 2007)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • sexes shaped differently
  • Range mass
    .51 to .32 g
    0.02 to 0.01 oz
  • Average mass
    .2 g
    0.01 oz
  • Average length
    1.5 cm
    0.59 in
  • Range wingspan
    3.4 to 5.6 cm
    1.34 to 2.20 in

Where do they live?

Oeneis uhleri is known as Uhler's Arctic butterfly. It mainly lives in the midwestern United States. It can also be found throughout southern Canada, including Manitoba and British Colombia. It lives as far west as Alaska, and as far south as northern New Mexico. Uhler's Arctic butterfly migrates from Canada to the midwestern/western states in the U.S. from mid-May to mid-July. (A. Layberry, et al., 2002; Opler, et al., 2006)

What kind of habitat do they need?

Uhler's Arctic butterfly lives in many different habitats, including prairies, grazed agricultural fields, open woods, around hill tops, and pine forests. In the midwest of the United States, these butterflies gather in dry prairies and bare lands. They can also be found in savannas, grasslands, and scrub forests. ("Attributes of Oeneis uhleri", 2014; "Oeneis uhleri varuna", 2014)

  • Range elevation
    354 to 1610 m
    1161.42 to 5282.15 ft
  • Average elevation
    757 m
    2483.60 ft

How do they grow?

Like all butterflies, Uhler's Arctic goes through complete metamorphosis. Its life stages are egg, larvae/caterpillar, pupae, and adult. Eggs are laid by the female parent on grasses and other plants. Caterpillar hatch and feed on the plants that they were born on. They stay as caterpillars for a year or two, with the caterpillar taking shelter during the winter. The caterpillar emerges alive in the spring, and goes below the soil to become a pupae. After pupation, it emerges as a butterfly. ("Attributes of Oeneis uhleri", 2014; A. Layberry, et al., 2002; Coffin and Pfannmuller, 1988)

How do they reproduce?

Uhler's Arctic male butterflies look for mates by hovering several meters above the grass. They sometimes perch on objects. Females are usually below in the grass. Males secrete chemicals called pheromones that attract females. They then approach the female to begin courtship and mating. These butterflies mate from May into early July. The males are polygynous, which means that they mate with more than one female. In this species, females usually only mate with one male, but sometimes more. (A. Layberry, et al., 2002; "Frequently asked Questions about Butterflies", 2006)

Uhler's Arctic butterflies mate about one time every month. Mating takes place from late May to July. Depending on how long the butterflies live, they can have 1 to 3 offspring in their lifetime. Once the female lays the egg, the offspring is left alone. ("Attributes of Oeneis uhleri", 2014; "Frequently asked Questions about Butterflies", 2006)

  • How often does reproduction occur?
    Uhler's Arctic butterflies breed once monthly.
  • Breeding season
    Oeneis uhleri mates during the early summer months.
  • Range eggs per season
    1 to 3

Uhler's Arctic parents do not provide much care for their offspring. The female provides nutrients in the egg that the unborn caterpillar can use to grow and develop before hatching. The egg is laid on grasses or sedges that the caterpillar will eat when it hatches. After they mate and lay the egg, the parents leave and do not return to the egg, providing no more care. ("Oeneis uhleri varuna", 2014; A. Layberry, et al., 2002)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female

How long do they live?

After emerging from pupation as butterflies, they live as adults for a few months during the summer from May to late July or August. One reason that these butterflies may die early is that they live in open habitats in the northern parts of North America, where bad weather such as thunderstorms and high winds can injure them. Wildfires also cause the deaths of some Uhler's arctic butterflies and caterpillars. ("Oeneis uhleri varuna", 2014)

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    1 to 4 months
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    2 to 4 months

How do they behave?

The Uhler's Arctic butterfly is active during the day. It flies close to the ground and often lands on bare land. The color of this butterfly helps it to camouflage itself against the ground, protecting it from predators. It is not social and each butterfly mainly keeps to itself unless looking for a mate. Uhler's Arctic migrates from territories in Canada to midwestern/western states in the U.S. from mid-May to mid-July. ("Oeneis uhleri varuna", 2014; "The Butterflies of the World Foundation: Uhler's Arctic", 2004; Opler, et al., 2006)

Home Range

Uhler's Arctic butterflies make migratory flights each summer from Canada to the northern and midwestern United States, traveling distances up to 200 km. Aside from migration flights, these butterflies remain in the same general area. ("Attributes of Oeneis uhleri", 2014; Opler, et al., 2006)

How do they communicate with each other?

Uhler's Arctic butterfly gathers information about its surroundings using sight and touch, as well as by detecting vibrations and chemicals. It communicates with other butterflies by touch and chemicals, such as pheromones to attract female mates. They also have a strong sense of touch through their antennae. ("Frequently asked Questions about Butterflies", 2006)

What do they eat?

The Uhler's Arctic butterfly has a mouth part called a proboscis. This is a tube-like structure that allows this species, and most other butterflies, to drink nectar from deep inside of flowers. This is their main source of food. The caterpillars of this species mainly feed on grasses. ("Frequently asked Questions about Butterflies", 2006)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • nectar

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

Uhler's Arctic butterfly uses camouflage as its main protection against predators. They land on bare land and use their orange-brown color to blend into the soil. Predators cannot easily see them and so they cannot eat the butterfly. If they see a predator coming towards them, the Uhler's Arctic butterfly can also just fly away from that predator. Their main predators include birds, snakes, toads, and ants. (Coffin and Pfannmuller, 1988; Opler, et al., 2006)

  • These animal colors help protect them
  • cryptic

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

Uhler's Arctic butterfly is eaten by many different predators. It also pollinates several kinds of plants when it is feeding on nectar from flowers, which helps the plants produce more plants. (Opler, et al., 2006)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • pollinates
Species (or larger taxonomic groups) that are mutualists with this species
  • Plantae

Do they cause problems?

Uhler's Arctic butterfly does not cause any problems for humans.

How do they interact with us?

Oeneis uhleri plays a larger role in economic importance for humans than most people realize. The butterflies help pollinate crops that we use for energy. Also, since they pollinate many different plants, including flowers, they aid in the production of flowers that attract ecotourism. The butterflies themselves are not much of a tourist attraction with their dull colors. ("Oeneis uhleri varuna", 2014; "Frequently asked Questions about Butterflies", 2006)

Uhler's Arctic butterflies pollinate plants that can be important to people, such as crops we use for food. They also pollinate flowers, which can attract tourism from people who enjoy looking at the flowers.

  • Ways that people benefit from these animals:
  • ecotourism
  • pollinates crops

Are they endangered?

The Uhler's Arctic butterfly is considered endangered in Minnesota because it has only been spotted in three counties. Of those three counties, two of them have only had one sighting. Conservation efforts are being made in Minnesota to keep the species there, mainly by protecting land. Outside of Minnesota, this species is not an endangered species, and is actually quite common in the other areas that it lives. (Coffin and Pfannmuller, 1988; Swengel, 1998; Coffin and Pfannmuller, 1988; Swengel, 1998)

Some more information...

Oeneis uhleri is predominately known as the Uhler's Arctic butterfly, but is also called the Rocky Mountain Arctic. ("Oeneis uhleri varuna", 2014)


Darin Howell (author), Minnesota State University Mankato, Robert Sorensen (editor), Minnesota State University, Mankato, Angela Miner (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.


2014. "Attributes of Oeneis uhleri" (On-line). Butterflies and Moths of North America. Accessed March 24, 2014 at

Zen Chart. 2006. "Frequently asked Questions about Butterflies" (On-line). Obsession with Butterflies. Accessed March 21, 2014 at

2014. "Oeneis uhleri varuna" (On-line). Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Accessed March 24, 2014 at

2004. "The Butterflies of the World Foundation: Uhler's Arctic" (On-line). Accessed March 24, 2014 at

A. Layberry, R., P. W. Hall, J. Donald Lafontaine. 2002. "Uhler's Arctic" (On-line). Accessed March 24, 2014 at'sArctic_e.php.

Bromilow, S. 2007. Genetic divergence and conservation of butterflies of the Peace River grasslands of Canada. Ann Arbor: UMI Dissertations Publishing.

Coffin, B., L. Pfannmuller. 1988. Minnesota's Endangered Flora and Fauna. Minnesota: University of Minnesota.

Opler, P., H. Pavulaan, R. Stanford, M. Pogue. 2006. Butterflies and Moths of North America: Uhler's Arctic (Oeneis Uhleri). Bozeman, Montana: Mountain Prairie Information Node.

Swengel, A. 1998. Effects of management on butterfly abundance in tall grass prairie and pine barrens. Biological Conservation, 83(1): 77-89.

University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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Howell, D. 2014. "Oeneis uhleri" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed March 04, 2024 at

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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