Haddad Lab at NC State
Rare Animals
Nick Haddad

TIps to identify St. Francis satyr

I often receive inquiries about how to identify St. Francis satyr.  This page is intended as a resource to start you toward distinguishing St. Francis satyr from other similar butterflies.

In determining whether a butterfly is a St. Francis satyr, it is important to consider whether you are looking at the right time of year, and in the right habitat.  In the coastal plain of North Carolina, St. Francis satyr adults fly from mid-May to mid-June, and again from mid-July to late-August.  If you are conducting an environmental impact assessment on St. Francis satyr at another time, you will not find adults, even if they are there!  Note that if they are found in the mountains (and the closely related Mitchell's satyr has been found in the mountains of Virginia), then adults would fly at a different time and have only one flight period each year.

The second important consideration is the habitat.  St. Francis satyr has been found only at Ft. Bragg in North Carolina.  It may be elsewhere, especially in the sandhills region of North Carolina.  It has been found in bog-like wetlands, usually created by beavers (see a related page on habitats of St. Francis satyr).

St. Francis satyr can be difficult to distinguish because there are a number of satyr species that live in the same habitats.  To infrequent butterfly observers, the satyrs are fairly small, brown, and nondescript.  A list of satyrs that occur with or near St. Francis satyr include:

Southern Pearly-eye (Enodia portlandia)
Creole Pearly-eye (Enodia creola)
Appalachian Brown (Satyrodes appalachia)
Gemmed Satyr (Cyllopsis gemma)
Carolina Satyr (Hermeuptychia sosybius)
Helicta Satyr (Neonympha helicta or the closely related Georgia Satyr (Neonympha areolata)
St. Francis Satyr (Neonympha mitchellii francisci)
Little Wood-Satyr (Megisto cymela)
Common Wood-Nymph (Cercyonis pegala)

St. Francis satyr is small, but not the smallest satyr.  The largest satyrs are the Pearly-eyes and Wood-nymph, with the Wood-nymph having a large yellow patch on the forewing and often occurring in open woodlands. 

St. Francis satyr is nearly identical to Helicta (Georgia) satyrs.  They are larger than Carolina satyrs and smaller than Appalachian browns (though similar in size to Gemmed and Little Wood-satyrs).  They fly more slowly than any of the other species.  Perhaps the most noticable difference between St. Francis and Helicta satyrs and other similar size butterflies is the orange or orange-brown banding and the pattern of eye spots. 

A number of more subtle characteristics distinguish St. Francis from Helicta and Georgia satyrs.  These usually include:
  •   Eye-spots on the hind wing are more oval in Helicta satyrs, more round in St. Francis satyrs
  •   More often, there are eye-spots on the fore-wing in St. Francis satyr
  •   In Helicta satyrs, the wing band adjacent to the eye spots on either side connects at the top and bottom to form a closed circle
  •   In St. Francis satyrs, the inner post-median band (just toward the body from the eyespots) is straight, in Helicta satyrs there is usually a notch
To study differences among species, consult three excellent webpages dedicated to photographs of butterflies from North Carolina (scroll down to the Satyrs (Satyrinae) or Brush-footed butterflies (Nymphalidae):
Jeff Pippen's Butterfly Site
Randy Emmett's Butterfly Photos
Will Cook's Butterfly Photos

For up-to-date information on these and other butterflies in North Carolina, please consult the Notes on the Butterflies of North Carolina by Harry LeGrand and Tom Howard
© Nick Haddad