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Common Wood Nymphs Mating

7-28-14 mating common wood nymphs 066If you’ve walked in a shrubby meadow lately, you are probably well aware that Common Wood Nymphs (Cercyonis pegala) are everywhere. Each step seems to flush one, which, after some erratic flying, settles back down beneath the grasses, hidden from view. These butterflies are in a group called “satyrs” which consists of mainly medium-sized, brown butterflies. They belong to the Nymphalidae family, also known as brush-footed butterflies, or four-footed butterflies. The reason for these common family names is immediately apparent when examining a Common Wood Nymph (or Monarch, Painted Lady, fritillaries or checkerspots). Butterflies in this family look as though they only have four feet. Being insects, however, they have six. The front two legs are folded up in front of its head, and are extremely small and bristly. These reduced legs are present in all brush-footed butterflies, and are not used for walking or clinging. Rather, the bristles on these legs are sensory organs, used for detecting smells and for tasting. The butterfly’s proboscis is coiled up between this front pair of legs.

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11 responses

  1. nangalland

    Thanks so much Mary for your informative pieces! Amazing stuff. The combo of nymphs and satyrs is downright mythological! love, Nan

    July 28, 2014 at 11:52 am

    • Sorry I missed you when you were last here! Come back soon!

      July 28, 2014 at 4:52 pm

  2. Michele Andrews

    I have been wondering what these delightful, friendly little butterflies are! They have been keeping me company while doing yard wrork for a few weeks now. They flutter around my legs, and then land. I wondered, are they looking for salt?

    July 28, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    • I’m not sure, Michele,but that sounds like a likely explanation!

      July 28, 2014 at 4:51 pm

  3. Jean Harrison

    I ALWAYS learn something from your posts. Didn’t know those “vestigial” forelegs were sense organs. Thanks for the info.

    July 28, 2014 at 8:35 pm

  4. Thanks for this – I was just this morning wondering what the name of this little guy was. Speaking of monarchs, have you seen any? I am rather worried about their decline. Maybe you could poll your readers and see if any one has seen any. I check every patch of milkweed and see no larvae or chrysalis, nor adults for that matter. So worrisome. 😦

    July 28, 2014 at 10:11 pm

    • Hi Eliza,
      I know three people here in Vermont who have seen monarchs this month — so I think it’s already a better summer than last year. Fingers crossed I’m right!

      July 28, 2014 at 11:48 pm

  5. Jean Harrison

    I have lots of milkweed here in Hartland but have seen neither monarch egg nor caterpillar nor chrysalis nor butterfly.

    June 23, 2015 at 5:17 pm

  6. Jean Harrison

    Yesterday, June 24, I watched a female monarch fluttering around my yard and hay field and milkweed. I did not see her lay any eggs, but I was very happy to see her. Last year I think I saw one in my yard and the year before, none.

    June 25, 2015 at 12:45 pm

  7. No monarchs seen to date here in Peterborough, NH. I’m actually trying to plant milkweed in hopes of helping.

    July 16, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    • I haven’t seen one either this summer…

      July 16, 2015 at 3:29 pm

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