Cooperative Research Units
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Local and landscape effects on frosted elfins in sandplain communities


September 2003 - August 2008


The frosted elfin is a state-listed butterfly species associated with early successional stages of pine barrens ecosystems, a rare seral stage in Massachusetts. We examined local and landscape predictors of abundance of this rare butterfly, with the aim of improving management for the species and its associated ecological community. We found that larvae of frosted elfins feed on Baptisia tinctoria (wild indigo), that are shaded by single trees in a savannah-like fashion, and that larvae are almost always attended by ants that likely protect them from predation. We are the first to document shade selection and ant-tending in this species, ecological traits with important management implications. The Massachusett Division of Fisheries and Wildlife is currently using our results to direct management for frosted elfins in Massachusetts.


Current Staff

Federal Staff: 3

Masters Students: 5

Phd Students: 11

Post Docs: 2

University Staff: 1

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 69

Scientific Publications: 35

Presentations: 148



Funding Agencies

  • National Audubon Society


Massachusetts Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit Cooperators

  1. Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
  2. Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries
  3. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  4. U.S. Geological Survey
  5. University of Massachusetts
  6. Wildlife Management Institute