Saint Francis' satyr

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Saint Francis' satyr
Neonympha mitchellii francisci individual cropped.png

Critically Imperiled (NatureServe)[1]
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Nymphalidae
Genus: Neonympha
N. m. francisci
Trinomial name
Neonympha mitchellii francisci
Parshall and Kral, 1989[2]
St francis satyr nc dist.png
NC range by county in red[3]

The Saint Francis' satyr (Neonympha mitchellii francisci) is an endangered butterfly found only in the US state of North Carolina. First discovered in 1983, it was officially described in 1989 and listed as a federally endangered species by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 1994. It is a subspecies of N. mitchellii and is only known from a single metapopulation on Fort Bragg military base in Hoke and Cumberland counties. The other subspecies, Mitchell's satyr (Neonympha mitchellii mitchellii), is also federally endangered.

Life history[edit]

Male and female St. Francis' satyrs mating

The St. Francis' satyr is a small, dark-brown butterfly with distinguishing white and yellow spots along the lower surfaces of both upper and lower wings. Females appear slightly larger and lighter brown than males. The average wingspan is 34–44 mm. Adults live an average of three or four days. The subspecies is bivoltine, with the first flight period occurring from late May to early June, and the second from late July to mid-August. Females deposit eggs individually or in small clusters that emerge as larvae in seven to ten days. Caterpillars that emerge in early summer (first flight period) pupate after two months, while those that emerge in late summer (second flight period) overwinter and pupate the following spring. Pupation may take up to two weeks. One known larval host plant is Carex mitchelliana, although it is likely that other sedges in the genus Carex may also act as host plants.


The estimated population of St. Francis' satyrs ranged between 500-1400 adult individuals in annual surveys from 2002 to 2005.[4] The population consists of a number of highly fragmented sites, typically small (0.2-2.0 ha) in size. It is assumed that these sites, or subpopulations, are part of one population found in a range that is approximately 10×10 km at Ft. Bragg. Most active sites are found in restricted areas on base, and there may be more active sites within these areas in places that can likely never be accessed. No populations have yet been detected outside of Department of Defense lands on Ft. Bragg. All locations are kept confidential among researchers and military personnel. Over-collection of the species for commercial gain is considered a high threat to this butterfly.


St. Francis' satyr chrysalis from captive-reared population at Ft. Bragg

Following its discovery, the St. Francis' satyr was listed as a subspecies of the Mitchell's satyr (Neonympha mitchellii). The nominate subspecies is N. m. mitchellii, which is distributed sparsely in the mid- and eastern US, including in Michigan, Alabama, Mississippi, and Virginia, and formerly in New Jersey. Although the Alabama, Mississippi, and Virginia populations are morphometrically similar to St. Francis' satyr, current molecular evidence supports that they are distinct from St. Francis' satyr, and that St. Francis' satyr should remain as a separate subspecies from all other populations in the genus Neonympha with potential elevation to full species status pending further analysis.[4][5]


St. Francis' satyrs are found in wetland habitat dominated by graminoids and sedges. Most subpopulations are found in abandoned beaver dams or along streams with active beavers. Suitable habitat is highly susceptible to variation in rainfall and subpopulations can be reduced with too much or too little water flow. St. Francis' satyrs cannot survive in sites that are either inundated by flooding or that succeed to riparian forest, thus population persistence often depends on disturbance by beaver and periodic fire that eliminates encroaching woody shrubs and trees. Past management practices of beaver eradication and fire suppression have likely contributed to current low population abundances and restricted distribution.

In 2011 Ft. Bragg began to restore critical habitat for the St. Francis' satyr through a combination of hardwood removal and inundation via artificial dams to mimic natural beaver and fire disturbance. Restoration efforts have led to an increase in population size at restored sites.[6]


  1. ^ Schweitzer, DF (2009). "Comprehensive Report Species – Neonympha mitchellii francisci". NatureServe Explorer. NatureServe Inc. Retrieved 20 December 2013.
  2. ^ "ITIS Standard Report Page: Neonympha mitchellii francisci". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  3. ^ "Raleigh Ecological Services Field Office". U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  4. ^ a b Kuefler, Daniel; Haddad, Nick M.; Hall, Stephen; Hudgens, Brian; Bartel, Becky; Hoffman, Erich (2008). "Distribution, Population Structure and Habitat Use of the Endangered Saint Francis Satyr Butterfly, Neonympha Mitchellii Francisci" (PDF). The American Midland Naturalist. 159 (2): 298–320. doi:10.1674/0003-0031(2008)159[298:DPSAHU]2.0.CO;2. ISSN 0003-0031.
  5. ^ Hamm, C. A.; Rademacher, V.; Landis, D. A.; Williams, B. L. (2013). "Conservation Genetics and the Implication for Recovery of the Endangered Mitchell's Satyr Butterfly, Neonympha mitchellii mitchellii" (PDF). Journal of Heredity. 105 (1): 19–27. doi:10.1093/jhered/est073. ISSN 0022-1503. PMID 24158752.
  6. ^ Cayton, Heather; Haddad, Nick M.; Ball, Brian; Henry, Erica; Aschehoug, Erik (2015). "Habitat restoration as a recovery tool for a disturbance-dependent butterfly, the endangered St. Francis' satyr". In Daniels, Jaret C. (ed.). Butterfly conservation in North America: efforts to help save our charismatic microfauna. Springer. pp. 147–159. ISBN 978-94-017-9851-8.

External links[edit]