Butterflies Common to Pennsylvania, Part Four

Checkered Skipper

Male Checkered Skipper (Image is the sole property of Randy L. Emmitt and cannot be used without his permission)

Female Checkered Skipper

The Common Checkered Skipper (Pyrgus communis) is noted to be quite variable in its appearance. On the upper or dorsal side they can be blackish with little white checkering in the female, or very pale or blue gray with broad bands of white spots in the male. The fringes of the male are checkered but the black checks often reach only halfway to the edge of the fringe. they can be confused with the white checkered species. The wing span ranges from 3/4 – 1 1/2″.

The female lays her eggs singly on the tops of leaves or on leaf buds. They are most active in the late afternoon which is also mating time. The larvae make nests in folded leaves and here they live, feed and when fully grown hibernate.

The caterpillars’ host plants are in the mallow family (Malvaceae) including globe mallows (Sphaeralcea), mallow (Malva), hollyhock (Alcea spp.), alkali mallow (Sida), velvet-leaf (Abutilon) and poppy mallow (Callirhoe).

The adults nectar from the flowers of shepherd’s needles, fleabane and asters; they also enjoy red clover and knapweed.

Their habitat include open sunny spaces with low growing vegetation and some bare soil such as fields, roadsides, riverbanks, gardens, parks, landfills, openings and trails in woods.

For a short video of the Checkered Skipper look here.

Little Wood Satyr Free Image by D. Gordon Robertson

Ventral View of Little Wood Satyr Free Image by D. Gordon Robertson

The little wood satyr (megisto cymela) is actually larger than most of the other small satyrs. In the brush footed family it has a wing span of 1 3/4-1 7/8″  Its wings are rounded and the coloring is a dull brown to tan with some darker brown lines. The wings each have 2 distinct black eyespots with yellow rims and two light pupils.  Smaller eyespots may be clustered around the larger ones.

The megisto cymela is very adaptable to moderate environmental change only requiring some moisture, brush, grasses or woods to provide them with a sheltered location. They can be found basking on leaves or in tree litter early in the day and later in the afternoon. They are described as having a slow, dancing or bouncing flight. They lay their eggs singly on blades of grass and are quite prolific in their ideal habitat. In the north east,  where out garden will be located, they have one brood during the period of June to July.

The host plants for the little wood satyr larvae are orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata), centipede grass (Eremochloa ophiuroides), grasses (Poaceae) and possibly sedges (Cyperaceae). The adult butterfly feeds on sap, aphid honeydew, and only occasionally flower nectar.

Their habitat is in grassy woods and clearings, old fields, thickets, meadows, and pinelands. For a short video look here.

Northern Pearly Eye Free Image by D. Gordon Robertson

Northern Pearly-Eye Dorsal View Free Image by Walter Fisher

The northern pearly-eye (Enodia anthedon) has slightly scalloped wings that are primarily varying shades of brown with fairly large brown circles that are encircled in a lighter shade on the dorsal side. The ventral side wings are a brownish tan with two dark, distinct bands through both of the wings, close to the body. These eyespots have a brown center encircled by a yellow, a brown, and a white ring. Each of the HW eyespots have a small white spot in the center. Their wing span is 1 5/8 – 2″.

The caterpillar feeds mainly on grasses, including white grass (Leersia virginica), plume grass (Erianthus), broadleaf uniola (Uniola latifolia), bottlebrush (Hystrix patula), dropseed (Muhlenbergia) and bearded short husk  ( Brachyelytrum erectum). The adults feed on willow, birch  or poplar sap, fungi, carrion and scat.

This is a woodland species, staying within damp zdeciduous woods, their borders and streams. They are more tolerant of shade than most butterflies..

For a video of this butterfly look here.

These (immediately above and below) photos of the northern metalmark are the sole copyrighted property of Randy L. Emmett. They can not be used without his permission.

The Northern Metalmark (Calephelis borealis) has a faded orange brown wing on the dorsal side with a wide central dark band that bisects both wings. there is an indistinct or broken band of metallic marks near the wings outer margin. On its ventral side they can be a light orange buff, with black or lead-gray spotting. The fringes are slightly checkered. The FW in the male is rounded while in the female it is not. They have a wingspan of 1 1/8 to 1 1/4 inches.

Northern metalmark caterpillars eat the leaves of roundleaf ragwort (Packera “Senecio” obovata). Golden ragwort (Packera aureus) and Philadelphia fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus) may also be used. The adult butterflies eat nectar from flowers, including butterfly milkweeds, sneezeweeds, white sweet clovers, black-eyed Susan, ox-eye sunflower, fleabane, yarrow and goldenrods.

In Pennsylvania, the butterfly is closely associated with limestone and shale barrens habitats. These sites tend to have close access to water sources such as streams. Habitat loss is the most serious threat to the northern metalmark in our state. In our area much of this can be attributed to development. Spraying for gypsy moth control is another threat. Northern metalmark caterpillars overwinter after their first summer then resume feeding the following April at the time spraying for gypsy moth takes place. Additionally, loss of the host plants due to invasive non-natives and the excessive deer population(which eats the ragwort flowers) has reduced numbers.





Butterflies and Moths of North America

Texas A&M Agri Life

PSU Butterfly Gardening

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies


About chestercoextbutterfly

I am an apprentice Master Gardener with the Pennsylvania State University (PSU) Cooperative Extension Program. My local office is in Chester County. As part of my volunteer activity I am working with a team to develop a Butterfly Garden on the grounds of the  Church of the Loving Shepherd.  We will be using the creation of this garden as an educational program for some of the participants in the Bournelyf Special Camp which, is held every summer. Members of the congregation of the church will be involved as well as in the ongoing maintenance of the garden.The purpose of this blog is to document the project as it develops.
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2 Responses to Butterflies Common to Pennsylvania, Part Four

  1. Tom Bare says:

    A very interesting and professionly done 4th in the series of Butterflies of Pennsylvania. I know where to come to identifiy butterfies when I see them this summer. Thanks for putting all of the pictures and information on this blog!

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