U S Fish and Wildlife Service


Past Featured Pollinators:
  Allen's Hummingbird
  Buff-bellied Hummingbird
  Calliope Hummingbird
  Costa's Hummingbird
  Crested Honeycreepers
  Dakota Skipper
  El Segundo blue butterfly
  Karner blue butterfly
  Lesser long-nosed bat

Mexican long-nosed bat

  Mitchell’s Satyr
  Monarch Butterfly
  Rufous Hummingbird
  Rusty patched bumble bee
  Taylor's checkerspot butterfly
More Pollinators:
  Fringed Orchids and Hawkmoths

Fun Fact:

The northern populations are univoltine (have one generation per year, as described above). The southern populations can be bivoltine (have two generations per year).  The number of days that are above a certain temperature may determine whether a population is univoltine or bivoltine.



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Featured Pollinator

image of a Mitchell’s satyr butterfly.
Mitchell’s satyr (photo: © Barb Barton used with permission from Michigan Natural Features Inventory)

The Mitchell’s Satyr (Neonympha mitchellii mitchellii) is a medium-sized butterfly that has one of the most geographically restricted ranges of any butterfly species in eastern North America. Historically, it was found in only 30 locations scattered across Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and New Jersey. Currently, it is considered extirpated from New Jersey and Ohio, but it has recently been reported at isolated locations in Virginia, North Carolina, and Alabama. The extremely small range is one reason the Mitchell’s Satyr is endangered.

image of Costa's Hummingbird feeding a chick.
Carex lasiocarpa, or woollyfruit sedge, a host plant of Mitchell’s Satyr larvae (photo: Matt Lavin, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Although the adult Mitchell’s Satyr is distinctive in its rich brown color and row of “eye spots” along its wing margins, the butterfly actually spends the majority of its life as an egg, larvae (caterpillar), or pupa (chrysalis). Eggs are laid in the summer and hatch within 7 to 11 days. Larvae then feed throughout the summer until they reach the fourth instar (time between molts), at which time they enter diapause (a period of rest). Fourth instar larvae spend the winter in diapause and resume feeding in the spring. In late spring or early summer, the larvae form pupae and emerge as adults after 10 to 15 days. The peak flight period is usually the first two weeks of July and males generally emerge a few days before females. Adult butterflies live for several weeks, during which time their focus is locating a mate and (if female) laying eggs.  Adult Mitchell’s Satyr butterflies rarely nectar (feed on nectar produced by flowers).

Mitchell’s Satyr inhabits freshwater wetlands. Many of its specific habitat requirements are still unknown. In the north, they spend their whole life in bog or prairie fens.  These habitats are sedge-, grass- and wildflower-dominated wetlands with alkaline soils and a continuous supply of cold groundwater rich in calcium and magnesium carbonates. They are usually found in close association with dense stands of tussock sedge (Carex stricta), the primary host plant (food plant) of the larvae. In the south, the species is primarily found in wetlands dominated by sedges and grasses. Many of these wetlands are associated with beaver (Castor canadensis) activity.

Larvae require sedges and grasses for feeding and overwintering. Six species of sedge (Carex buxbaumii, C. lasiocarpa, C. leptalea, C. prairea, C. sterilis, and C. stricta) and two grasses(Panicum amplicatum and Poa palustris) support normal larval development. Larvae overwinter on the leaves or at the base of tussock sedge.

The primary threats to this species include habitat loss and over-collection. The freshwater wetlands that support Mitchell’s Satyr can be lost through human activity, such as urban development, conversion of land to agriculture, or the construction of roads. Sedge- or grass-dominated meadows can also be lost due to succession (the natural process by which shrubs and then trees grow up in open areas). Due to their small size (1 ¾ inch wingspan), this species has a limited ability to move to a new habitat patch if an existing one is lost. Lastly, it is thought that some populations have been eliminated through over-collection by butterfly collectors.

Last Updated: June 17, 2019
June 17, 2019