A Mid-Atlantic Megisto Mystery

Both Harry Pavulaan and David Wright (MD and PA, respectively) have put out data calls recently for information on summer sightings of Little Wood Satyr.  David explains:

>>The Little Wood Satyr (Megisto cymela) is one of our commonest butterflies and is found throughout Pennsylvania. Little known fact is there appears to be two biotypes (perhaps species) going under one name. This is most evident where the two biotypes co-occur, since their flights are offset by several weeks. The early flight appears in the period from May to late June, and then suddenly in late June & early July a new flight marked by fresh males appears. This is the beginning of the late flight; both sexes fly well into August.  These are univoltine insects. The early flight does not produce the late flight. The two biotypes are not too different in their markings, which makes it difficult to tell one flight form the other by simply looking at a single specimen or photo. The larvae also look similar, but their developmental rates diverge.  I’ve been mapping the two entities in Pennsylvania, but certainly could use some more records of the second (=later) flight. This flight is on right now. If anyone collects, photos or sights a Little Wood Satyr in late July and August, I would greatly appreciate it if you would post the finding [on] PaLepsOdes [in Google Groups].<<

Harry noted in an earlier email to me much the same thing with a similar request to let him know (harrypav@hotmail.com) about summer brood Megisto in MD:

>>This season, I decided to make an effort to locate Megisto cymela here in northern Virginia or central Maryland (western DC suburbs and beyond), and have come to an interesting conclusion:

Megisto eurytris (sensu Gatrelle), which is the spring flight of “Little Wood Satyr” here in the DC area, is common and widespread in late May through mid-June. I can find it in most wooded habitats or along woods edges or hedgerows. I obtained eggs from a female on May 28 and the larvae are still barely 10 mm long. Not possible to produce the summer flight, so that answers one question: that the summer (cymela) flight cannot be a second generation of the spring flight (eurytris). 

Megisto cymela is the summer flight of “Little Wood Satyr” here. It is RARE here in the western suburbs (though reported frequently east of Washington D.C.). After searching through about a dozen sites, most of which have the earlier, common, eurytris flight, and most of which have what one would consider “prime habitat” for the summer flight, only ONE site supported a tiny colony. I only observed about 6 individuals total during three visits over a one-week period in early July. Three males and three females observed or netted, some fresh, some showing bird attacks. What was most interesting was their behavior. All of these were located perching on tree branches or flying several feet up between trees in deep shade, though one male was observed flying in an adjacent second growth area. Not what I had expected. 

Several eggs were obtained from this second flight. Females of both flights oviposited on random lawn and forest grasses. I intend to rear them to maturity through the coming winter. This should help document their developmental stragies through the winter and for producing their annual flights. We’ll see if they keep on schedule.

If anyone knows of specific hosts, I’d be interested in learning what they use in different areas.<<

Tom Stock, Walt Gould and I had also noticed that the College Park MD colony we’re most familiar with was exhibiting a high-flying, tree-centric behavior at the end of June and early July as well.

I’ve resisted the urge (so far!) of claiming TWO Megisto species on my MD100 Maryland Butterfly Big Year, but if I’m still stuck at #99 for another couple of weeks I’m sure I’ll give in ….

This entry was posted in checklists, general butterfly news, Identification tips, Maryland Big Year, rearing butterflies, sightings. Bookmark the permalink.

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