Georgia Satyr Butterfly

Where Native Plants Grow, Butterflies Are Sure to Follow

Dateline: May 9, 2014*

Check out those fuzzy slippers!

A little over a week ago I mowed the dogs’ area of the yard.  I don’t like them looking at me with eyes that seem to say “MOM, this stuff is tickling our butts, crank up the mower and get with it.”  We had a few days of rain since that time, so, naturally, as is a given when living in Florida, the grass needs to be mowed frequently when the rains come. It grows at the rate of 4 inches an hour…ok that’s an exaggeration…it just seems that way in my beautiful wildlife garden.

Mind you, I use the term “grass” loosely.  The majority of my property sports the “no-lawn” look…a meadow-lawn of sorts, rich with Florida native wildflowers, bunch grasses and sedges.  A responsible way to landscape to provide habitat and food for our rapidly decreasing fauna.

This is dogs’ domain…a “meadow-lawn”. There are additional shrubs and plant sections since this photo was taken but a lot is left for wildflowers, sedges and native grasses

I noticed that with my semi-procrastination this week, some of the sedges were getting a chance to rear their pretty little flowering heads.  Particularly noticeable was the Fragrant Spikesedge (Kyllinga odorata) with it’s minty green coloring that contrasts against the dark greens of the low growing ground covers.  Fragrant Sedge is appropriately named; it does have a wonderful scent.

As I was trying to come up with an idea for this week’s article, as luck would have it, a new visitor stopped by my yard.  And a beauty (s)he was.  Flying low to the ground, I saw what I assumed was a Carolina Satyr Butterfly (Hermeuptychia sosybius), a regular visitor to my place.  It struck me as odd that it was puttering around in the bright sun.  Carolina Satyrs are a species that tend to like it made in the shade.

This is a Carolina Satyr, a distant relative of the Georgia Satyr

That’s when I noticed a bobbing action in the flight. The butterfly never landed for any length of time.  While the Carolina Satyr doesn’t last long in one spot, it does have a greater attention span than this A.D.D.-type that was fluttering from grass blade to sedge to grass blade and round and round again.  It was dizzying.

Of course, I had to get a closer look and absent was my zoom camera…I only had the pocket point and shoot with me.  I crept slowly and got a glimpse of a brown butterfly, similar to the Carolina Satyr, but with orange-red markings and long, narrow ovals for eyespots.

I leaned in to snap a few photos, many without success as the butterfly moved from spot to spot, barely stopping.  Every time I got close enough and it seemed to settle briefly, the angle of the sun wasn’t in my favor, so the shots wound up somewhat dark.

I’ve had more visits such as this one from in September 2014

After about 15 minutes of “the chase” and figuring I MUST have gotten at least a couple of good shots, off to the computer I went to research my newfound friend.

Well, I’ll be, it’s a visitor from just over the state border, a Georgia Satyr (Neonympha areolata).  Sadly, the majority of the photos were a bust, but I did get two acceptable enough for this article.  There are outstanding photos on a few butterfly documentation Websites.

The butterfly refused to pose where the sun was at a better angle. Check out the distinctive elongated eyespots

N. areolata is a member of the Brushfoots (Nymphalidae) family of butterflies and for this guy, it couldn’t be more appropriate.  Look closely at the top photo, this baby looks like it is wearing fuzzy slippers.**

The range for the Georgia Satyr is North Carolina, south through Florida and west to Texas.

Well, well, well, larval hosts are listed as “Probably” sedges (Cyperaceae). Some Websites seem a tad more confident including information that eggs are laid singly on host plants and that caterpillars eat leaves.

This fragrant sedge is a little torn up from a mowing a week or two ago

Imagine that, it looks like my Fragrant Spikesedge is drawing in the tourists.  There is also a healthy supply of Starrush Whitetop (Rhynchospora spp.) out next to the culvert.  Despite the common name Starrush is a Florida native sedge also in the Cyperaceae family.Research reveals that the adults seem to lean towards puddling that is, getting their nutrients and moisture from carrion, sap, fruits and other things we don’t like to think about. They rarely nectar.

Starrush Whitetop is another sedge that grows nearby

So, it was a lucky week. The sedges grew (although there are always some in the back, dog-free 1/2-acre of the yard) and the Georgia Satyrs arrived to be added to my buggy life-list.  Most importantly, I got my idea for this article without racking my brain.

Proof positive that if you have larval host plants, they will come. The lesson here is that not all butterflies are looking for nectar producing flowers. Be sure to have a healthy supply of larval hosts to bring in the more unusual species of Lepidoptera.

*This is an update of a tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on May 9, 2014 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.

**“Brush-footed butterflies are so named for their modified forelegs, which are smaller than the other leg pairs. These tiny legs look like small brushes, and cannot be used for walking. If you see a butterfly that appears to have only four legs, it’s most likely a brush-footed butterfly.”


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