Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter


from the March 30, 2009 Newsletter, issued from near Natchez, Mississippi:

Satyrs are usually thought of as male woodland creatures with pointed ears, the legs and short horns of a goat, and a fondness for unrestrained revelry. As such, the above title can evoke some provocative mental images, probably unlike the mating satyrs shown above.

As you can see, satyrs also are butterflies of the family Satyridae, distinguished by their brown wings ornamented with eyelike spots. The species in the picture, abundant in Karen's yard, is the Carolina Satyr, HERMEUPTYCHIA SOSYBIUS.

The Audubon field guide presents several pages of images of satyr butterfly species who are all brown with eyelike spots. Other species display larger and smaller spots alternating along the margins like ours but the larger spots, the "eyes," occupy different positions among the smaller spots. Determining the species is mostly a matter of noting where the big spots lie relative to the small spots, and it's interesting to reflect on these tiny-brained creatures paying such attention to something like relative eye-spot positions.

Don't confuse satyrs with hairstreaks and blues, which are other kinds of small butterflies. Hairstreaks and blues are similar-looking, common, widely distributed butterfly types but they don't bear round spots exactly like satyrs.

Carolina Satyrs are abundant in the US Southeast and extend deep into Mexico. You can read a lot about the species and see its distribution map at http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species?l=1847.

Adult Carolina Satyrs eat sap and rotting fruit, while its caterpillars feed on various grasses.