North American Ecology (US and Canada)
occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) Eastern North America, extending: north to southern Canada, south to northern Mexico, and west to Saskatchewan, the Dakotas, and Texas.
Megisto_cymela occurs in mixed woodlands and grasslands throughout most of eastern North American, from southeastern Saskatchewan down to the southern third of Texas, and east to the Atlantic.
Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )
- Glassberg, J. 1999. Butterflies Through Binoculars: the East. New York City, New York, USA: Oxford University Press, Inc..
- Scott, J. 1986. The Butterflies of North America. Stanford, California, USA: Stanford University Press.
Megisto_cymela is a medium-sized butterfly (wingspan 30-46 mm) with rounded wings. The upper surface of the wings and body is light tan-brown to medium brown. There are two yellow-ringed eyespots on the top of each front wing, and one similar spot on the top of each back wing (some individuals have a second indistinct spot too). The undersides of these butterflies are are lighter than the tops, with more clearly marked eyespots. Males and females have similar markings.
As in all species in the family Nymphalidae, the first pair of legs are reduced and serve only sensory functions; they walk and perch with only the other four. Also like most Satyrinae, little wood-satyrs have hearing organs ("ears") in expanded veins near the base of each front wing.
The caterpillars of this species are pale to yellow brown, and covered with many small bumps, each with a single hair. They have a strong dark stripe down the middle of the back, and brown marks along the sides. The caterpillar body ends in two stubby points, like two short tails.
Range wingspan: 30 to 46 mm.
Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike
Comments: Shaded or brushy situations with grasses and barrens and oak savannas with heavy cover of CAREX PENSYLVANICA. Readily occurs in open woodlands of many kinds, but in truly forested situations this is an edge species.
The little wood-satyr lives where grasses and trees grow together: along edges of forest, in open woodlands, and in meadows near trees. The species is most populous where this habitat is combined with relatively alkaline soils. Larvae live on the grasses they eat, and probably hibernate in leaf litter. Adults tend to fly close to cover, especially in open fields. Males patrol for females, but tend to stay in shade.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest
Other Habitat Features: suburban ; agricultural
- Douglas, M., J. Douglas. 2005. Butterflies of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA: University of Michigan Press.
Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Caterpillars of Megisto_cymela have been found eating several grass species in the wild: Kentucky bluegrass (Poa_pratensis), orchardgrass (Dactylis_glomerata), centipede grass (Eremochloa_ophiuroides), and St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum_secundatum). They may eat other kinds of grass as well, but not broad-leaved plants.
Adults feed mainly on sap flows from trees, the "honeydew" secretions of Aphididae, and fluids from decaying mushrooms. They only occasionally take nectar from flowers.
Plant Foods: leaves; nectar; sap or other plant fluids
Flowering Plants Visited by Megisto cymela in Illinois
(observations are from Robertson and Graenicher; this butterfly is the Little Wood Satyr)
Anacardiaceae: Rhus glabra [stam sn] (Rb); Caprifoliaceae: Symphoricarpos albus sn (Gr); Lamiaceae: Pycnanthemum tenuifolium sn (Rb); Rutaceae: Ptelea trifoliata sn (Rb); Smilacaceae: Smilax herbacea [stam sn][unsp sn] (Rb, Gr)
This species has no known mutualist partners. Unlike some other butterflies, it is not an important pollinator. Sometimes M._cymela is a very common butterfly species, and then it might be an important food source for some insect-eating predators.
We have no specific information on the predators of Megisto_cymela. The species is not known to have any chemical defenses, but apparently relies on camouflage coloring and its powers of flight to avoid predators. Consequently, any insectivorous animal might prey upon them.
Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals
Comments: Very abundant in proper habitat.
Life History and Behavior
Communication and Perception
Adult little wood-satyrs use vision mainly to detect movement (of predators or con-specifics). In common with many insect eyes, their eyes can detect polarized light. They can "smell" with their antennae, and use special chemicals to help them find mates. They also use smell and tast to locate the plants that their larvae will feed on. They most likely have taste receptors in their mouth that sense sugars and other nutrients in their food. This species and some of its relatives in the Satyrinae are unusual among butterflies in having an sound-detecting structure (an "ear") in the veins near the base of their front wings. It's not clear what they are hearing with this structure, probably predator sounds. They do not use sound to communicate with each other.
Caterpillars have very poor vision, and no antennae. They probably do have a strong sense of taste, and some sense of smell. They may be sensitive to vibrations as well.
Communication Channels: visual ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: pheromones
Perception Channels: visual ; polarized light ; tactile ; acoustic ; vibrations ; chemical
Like most insects, the timing of little wood-satyr development is strongly affected by temperature. Eggs are laid by females in spring or summer. Caterpillars hatch and begin feeding immediately. They shed their skin three times before the end of the growing season. If the climate requires it, they will hibernate as while still in the caterpillar stage. In the spring, the caterpillar transforms into a pupa, hanging itself head down for a few weeks while it transforms itself into the adult form. The adult emerges in spring or summer, and only lives a few months at most.
Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis
Longevity of this species has not been reported. Since adults cannot survive freezing temperatures, individual little wood-satyrs probably do not live for more than about 16 months.
Adults seek mates within a day or two of emergence. Males usually emerge shortly before before females, and establish flight territories along the edges of stands of trees and shrubs. They perch in shady spots, and also patrol their patch of edge, looking for females to court. Males will try to chase away other males from their territory. We have no information on the mating system in this species, but it is likely that both males and females have multiple mates.
Female little wood-satyrs lay eggs singly, each one on or near the grasses that their larvae will eat, but separate from other eggs.
Breeding season: Little wood-satyrs lay eggs throughout their adult life, which typically lasts for a month or two in late spring or summer.
Key Reproductive Features: semelparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous
Butterflies do not take care of their young after the eggs are laid. The females carefully lay their eggs on or near the plants their young need to eat, and they put some stored food in the eggs for the developing young caterpillars. After they lay their eggs they leave.
Parental Investment: pre-fertilization (Provisioning); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Male)
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Megisto cymela
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Megisto cymela
Public Records: 11
Specimens with Barcodes: 47
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
This is a common and sometimes abundant species in most of its range. It is not considered in need of special conservation efforts or legal protection.
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: not evaluated
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
State of Michigan List: no special status
- Layberry, ., P. Hall, J. Lafontaine. 2002. The Butterflies of Canada. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press. Accessed April 01, 2009 at http://www.cbif.gc.ca/spp_pages/butterflies/index_e.php.
Degree of Threat: D : Unthreatened throughout its range, communities may be threatened in minor portions of the range or degree of variation falls within natural variation
Global Protection: Many to very many (13 to >40) occurrences appropriately protected and managed
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
There are no known adverse effects of Megisto cymela on humans.
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
This species has no direct economic benefits for humans. It is however a common butterfly in many inhabited areas, so may add value to the environment. It may also be an important food item for desirable animals, such as songbirds.
The wingspan is 29–48 mm. The forewing has two yellow-rimmed black eye spots on both sides, dorsal and ventral. The hindwing has two spots on the dorsal side but have smaller spots on the ventral. The other all color is light brown. The Wood Satyr is is comparably larger than sosybia.
The body is light greenish-brown with a dark dorsal line and alternating brown and yellowish lateral stripes. The surface of the caterpillar has bumps, these bumps bear short reddish-brown hairs. The head is dirty white while the tail hairs are light gray.
The Wood Satyr is part of the typically neotropical genus Euptychiina. It can be observed in forests, usually a long the edges and in brush-filled openings along cleared forest roads. It has also been observed in grassy areas usually between forested patches. It flies near the ground, twisting between and through grasses, small trees and bushes. Collectors have found it often difficult to capture, though it appears to be a slow flyer at first glance. This butterfly prefers habitat that is open, contains deciduous trees along with marshy areas and possessing brushy cover.
Range & Habitat
They are seen in the eastern United States and southeastern Canada, Nova Scotia south into Florida west to Texas, Saskatchewan, and Wyoming. As the name implies the Little Wood Satyr is most commonly seen in woods and shrubby areas.
Adults in the northern portions of their range fly between June and July while their southern populations fly between March and September. Adults have a slow "bouncing" flight but they will rise as far as the top of tall trees. Females lay eggs singly on grass, the fourth-instar caterpillars hibernate.
- Klotz, Alexander B. (1951). a Field Guide to the Butterflies of North America, East of the Great Plains. Peterson Field Guide Series (first edition ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 69. ISBN 0395078652.
- Klotz, Alexander B. (1951). a Field Guide to the Butterflies of North America, East of the Great Plains. Peterson Field Guide Series (first edition ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 64. ISBN 0395078652.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Megisto cymela.|
- "Species Megisto cymela - Little Wood Satyr - BugGuide.net". Retrieved 2008-11-20.
- "Megisto". Retrieved 2008-11-20.
- "Species Detail Butterflies and Moths of North America". Retrieved 2008-11-20.
- Little Wood-Satyr, Butterflies of Canada
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Could be two separate G5 species, or maybe the species is just dimorphic for overwintering instar in much of its range. Perhaps additional sibling species.
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