Saint Francis’ Satyr (Neonympha mitchellii francisci)
Federal Status: Endangered, Listed January 26, 1995
Description: Saint Francis' satyr is a small, dark brown butterfly. The wingspan for the species ranges from 34 to 44 millimeters. Saint Francis' satyr has conspicuous "eye spots" on the lower surfaces of the wings. These eye spots have a dark maroon-brown center, and within the eye spots are lighter opalescent patches that reflect a silver cast. The border of these dark eye spots is straw-yellow in color, with an outermost border of dark brown. The eye spots are usually round to slightly oval and are well-developed on the fore wing as well as on the hind wing. The spots are accented by two bright orange bands along the posterior wing edges and two somewhat darker orange-brown bands across the central portion of each wing.
The habitat occupied by this satyr consists primarily of wide, wet meadows dominated by a high diversity of sedges and other wetland graminoids. In the North Carolina sandhills, such meadows are often relicts of beaver activity. Saint Francis' satyr has also been observed in pitcher plant (Sarracenia flava) swales, with cane (Arundinaria tecta), and with rare plants rough-leaved loosestrife (Lysimachia asperulaefolia) and pocosin lily (Lilium iridollai). It is, however, unknown whether the satyr uses such habitat for reproduction or simply as a dispersal corridor.
Distribution: Only a single metapopulation of Saint Francis' satyr is known to exist in the sandhills of North Carolina, in Cumberland and Hoke Counties.
Threats: The primary threat to the Saint Francis’ satyr is loss of habitat due to both natural and human-caused changes. Habitat modification has occurred due to beaver eradication and suppression of periodic fires, both of which are restored to the landscape around known satyr populations. In addition, poaching remains a significant threat to the Saint Francis’ satyr based on its extreme rarity and has required that all locations of all colony sites be kept strictly confidential among researchers. If these sites were made known to the general public, it is likely that individuals would be threatened by collection again and could face extinction.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1996. Saint Francis’ Satyr Recovery Plan. Atlanta, GA. 27 pp.
Sarah McRae, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, 919-856-4520 ext. 16