Oeneis uhleri

Geographic Range

Oeneis uhleri, or Uhler's Arctic butterfly lives primarily in the midwestern United States. It can also be found in Manitoba, British Columbia, and other southern territories in Canada. The species may also be found west into northeastern Alaska, south as far as northern New Mexico and east into western Minnesota. Oeneis uhleri migrates from territories in Canada to midwestern/western states in the U.S. from mid-May to mid-July. It is native to the Nearctic region. Oeneis uhleri is also a part of the Holarctic distribution. (A. Layberry, et al., 2002; Opler, et al., 2006)


The habitat of Uhler's Arctic butterfly includes prairies, grazed areas, and open woods. Oeneis uhleri is often located around hilltops, ridges, and pine forests as well. In Minnesota these butterflies concentrate in dry prairies and bare lands by Glacial Lake Agassiz. They are located in the temperate, terrestrial environment of the Midwestern and northern United States. They can also be found in savannas, grasslands, or 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

Physical Description

The Uhler's Arctic butterfly is classified as a brush foot. This means that the first pair of legs on the butterfly is shorter than the rest of the legs and give off a "brush-like" appearance. The overall appearance of this butterfly is an orange-brown color with visible eyespots. It is about 1.5 cm long, the wingspan measures at 4.5 cm on average, and it weighs roughly 0.35 grams. Both sexes of Oeneis uhleri are fairly similar in size and shape but the female is larger with more rounded wings than the male. The forewing of this butterfly is pale gray, coarse, and has a distinct pattern of dark brown. There are dark eyespots near the hind wing and also on the forewing as well. The spots make an arcing design.

The caterpillars of Oeneis uhleri are greenish tan with grey and black lateral stripes.

Oeneis uhleri is very similar to the prairie ringlet, Coenonympha tullia. This butterfly inhabits the same habitat at the same time and resembles the Uhler's Arctic, but is smaller with rounded wings. Also, the bottom of the prairie ringlet is a dark grey with no dark marks or eyespots. The Alberta Arctic, Oeneis alberta, is also a similar species to the Uhler's Arctic butterfly. It can be differentiated by having more eye-spots on the wings and a dark, angled line on the bottom of its wing. ("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


The eggs of Oeneis uhleri are laid singly by the female on grasses and sedges. The offspring emerge from the egg as an instar larvae, also known as caterpillars, and feed on the grasses and sedges that they were born on. It takes roughly a year to two years for complete larval development of the Uhler's Arctic butterfly, with the fourth instar larvae overwintering and emerging again in the spring. Pupation then occurs below the soil. The caterpillar undergoes complete metamorphosis to become a butterfly. ("Attributes of Oeneis uhleri", 2014; A. Layberry, et al., 2002; Coffin and Pfannmuller, 1988)


Uhler's Arctic male butterflies seek mates by hovering several meters above the grass or sedge and also perching to look under ridge crests. Compared to other butterfly species, hovering is an unusual behavior. First, males secrete pheromones and attract a female below in the grass. Then, they approach the female to begin courtship. Oeneis uhleri mates from May into early July. The males are polygynous, which means that they mate with more than one female. In this species, the female tends to be monogamous, but studies have shown that this is not always the case. (A. Layberry, et al., 2002; "Frequently asked Questions about Butterflies", 2006)

Oeneis uhleri mates roughly one time every month. They preform seasonal, sexual mating in the summer months. Mating occurs from late May to July. Depending on the lifespan of the individual Uhler's Arctic butterfly, they can produce 1 to 3 offspring in their lifetime. While the female Uhler's Arctic butterfly is holding the egg, the male watches over her. Once the female lays the egg, the offspring is left alone. Fertilization is internal. ("Attributes of Oeneis uhleri", 2014; "Frequently asked Questions about Butterflies", 2006)

  • Breeding interval
    Uhler's Arctic butterflies breed once monthly.
  • Breeding season
    Oeneis uhleri mates during the early summer months.
  • Range eggs per season
    1 to 3

There is little parental care for Oeneis uhleri. The female provides provisioning in the eggs. The egg is laid on grasses or sedges that the larvae will eat upon hatching, providing the offspring with a food source. No further care is provided to the offspring, as the adults leave and eventually die by the time the caterpillar has hatched and undergoes metamorphosis. ("Oeneis uhleri varuna", 2014; A. Layberry, et al., 2002)

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


The Uhler's Arctic butterfly is known to live in its adult form for the summer months from May to late July or August. Since Oeneis uhleri live in open, northern habitats, severe weather such as thunder storms and high winds can lower the lifespan of the adult. Wildfires also have a significant impact on O. uhleri. Severe winters can also decrease the probability of the larva or caterpillars making it through to adulthood. In general, butterflies tend to only survive for a few months in their adulthood. ("Oeneis uhleri varuna", 2014)

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


The Uhler's Arctic butterfly is motile and diurnal. Oeneis uhleri flies close to the ground and often lands on bare land. The color of the butterfly allows it to blend in with the bare ground to avoid detection from predators. An abnormality of this species is the hovering of the male during courtship. It is not a social species and there are no hierarchies. In Minnesota, there are isolation barriers keeping the butterfly from immigrating elsewhere. Oeneis uhleri 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

Oeneis uhleri is a migratory species and makes seasonal migrations from Canada to the northern and midwestern United States, traveling distances up to 200 km. Aside from migration flights, these butterflies are relatively sedentary and remain in the same general area. ("Attributes of Oeneis uhleri", 2014; Opler, et al., 2006)

Communication and Perception

Oeneis uhleri perceives its environment through ultraviolet sight, touch, vibrations, and chemical processes. It communicates through chemical processes and touch, as well as pheromones. The male produces pheromones to draw out the female to initiate a courtship for mating. They also have a strong sense of touch through their antennae and smell through preceptors. ("Frequently asked Questions about Butterflies", 2006)

Food Habits

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. Since it drinks nectar as its main source of food, it is classified as a nectarivore. The caterpillars primarily feed on grasses and sedges. ("Frequently asked Questions about Butterflies", 2006)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • nectar


Oeneis uhleri uses camouflage as its main protection against predators. They land on bare land and use their orange-brown color to blend into the soil. This enables the predator to overlook them, and save the butterfly. If they are able to notice a ground predator from a distance, 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)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

The Uhler's Arctic butterfly serves as prey to many different predators. It is also a pollinator for many different types of plants. It has a mutualistic relationship with plants. The plants give the butterflies their nectar, and the butterflies pollinate other plants, increasing the plants abundance and genetic diversity. (Opler, et al., 2006)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • pollinates
Mutualist Species
  • Plantae

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

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)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of Oeneis uhleri on humans.

Conservation Status

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, singular sighting. Conservation efforts are being made in Minnesota to keep the species there. It is isolated from other populations in North Dakota, making it nearly impossible to immigrate. Land is being protected through management and ownership of public agencies and private conservation organizations. Outside of Minnesota, O. uhleri has no special conservation status, and has no need for conservation efforts due to its abundance in Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado. (Coffin and Pfannmuller, 1988; Swengel, 1998)

Other Comments

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.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


union of egg and spermatozoan


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


the state that some animals enter during winter in which normal physiological processes are significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements. The act or condition of passing winter in a torpid or resting state, typically involving the abandonment of homoiothermy in mammals.


a distribution that more or less circles the Arctic, so occurring in both the Nearctic and Palearctic biogeographic regions.

World Map

Found in northern North America and northern Europe or Asia.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.


makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


an animal that mainly eats nectar from flowers


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species


having more than one female as a mate at one time

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others


2014. "Attributes of Oeneis uhleri" (On-line). Butterflies and Moths of North America. Accessed March 24, 2014 at http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/Oeneis-uhleri.

Zen Chart. 2006. "Frequently asked Questions about Butterflies" (On-line). Obsession with Butterflies. Accessed March 21, 2014 at http://www.obsessionwithbutterflies.com/butterflies.html.

2014. "Oeneis uhleri varuna" (On-line). Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Accessed March 24, 2014 at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/sitetools/disclaimers_and_policies.html.

2004. "The Butterflies of the World Foundation: Uhler's Arctic" (On-line). Accessed March 24, 2014 at http://www.botwf.org/page143.html.

A. Layberry, R., P. W. Hall, J. Donald Lafontaine. 2002. "Uhler's Arctic" (On-line). Accessed March 24, 2014 at http://www.cbif.gc.ca/spp_pages/butterflies/species/Uhler'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.