Megisto cymela

Geographic Range

Megisto cymela, commonly known as little wood satyrs, is a Nearctic species of butterfly. They are mainly found in the eastern half of North America. Their range stretches from southern Canada and Nebraska south to Florida and Texas. It is common to abundant throughout its range. (Bartlett, 2004; Klots, 1951)


Little wood satyrs live in forests and shrubby locations. They prefer deciduous forests and wet meadows surrounded by trees. (Bartlett, 2004; Klots, 1951)

Physical Description

Adults are greyish brown in color. They have black eyespots that are ringed in yellow on both sides of their wings. The uppersides of their wings have two eyespots, the undersides of the forewings have two large eyespots, and the undersides of the hindwings have two large spots and many smaller spots. Little wood satyrs have wingspans ranging from 29 mm to 48 mm. (Bartlett, 2004; Klots, 1951)

The two subspecies of little wood satyrs vary in appearance. The subspecies Megisto cymela viola is brighter in color than the subspecies Megisto cymela cymela. Megisto cymela viola has an almost violet coloring. (Klots, 1951)

Larvae are greenish-brown in color. They have a dark stripe down their back; they have brown and yellow horizontal stripes. Larvae of little wood satyrs are bumpy in appearance and have reddish-brown hairs. Their heads are a dull white color and their lower end is greyish. (Bartlett, 2004; Klots, 1951)

Carolina satyrs and red satyrs look very similar to little wood satyrs. Carolina satyrs lacks eye spots on their uppersides. They have one large eyespot on the underside of their forewings, unlike the two or more seen on little wood satyrs. Red satyrs have one large eyespot on the upper side of their wings and one large eyespot on the lower part of the front wings. They have a reddish color. (Bartlett, 2004)

  • Range wingspan
    29 to 48 mm
    1.14 to 1.89 in


Eggs are laid individually on grass blades. After hatching, larvae pass through instars of development. Larvae overwinter in their fourth instar of development. Like other butterflies, little wood satyrs undergo metamorphosis to become adults. They pupate and then emerge as adults. (Bartlett, 2004)


Little wood satyrs utilize sexual reproduction and lay eggs. (Bartlett, 2004; Marín, 2019)

  • Breeding interval
    Little wood satyrs breed once yearly.

Little wood satyrs do not care for their young. (Bartlett, 2004)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement


Adult little wood satyrs are active from May to July. In the northernmost parts of their range, they produce one generation per year. In the southernmost parts of their range, they may produce three or four generations. (Bartlett, 2004)


Little wood satyrs fly close to the ground. Their flight is slow, but they are able to avoid capture by twisting through tall grasses and shrubs. (Klots, 1951)

Communication and Perception

Little wood satyrs have compound eyes. Like other butterflies, they are able to see ultraviolet light. Their antennae are sensory organs; they allow the butterflies to sense odors, touch, and possibly sound. They have taste receptors in their mouths and on the bottoms of their feet. Butterflies are able to perceive sound, though they do not have a special organ dedicated to this sense as moths do. (Wernert, 1998)

Food Habits

Adults feed on nectar and sap. Larvae feed on grasses like orchardgrass, Kentucky bluegrass, and centipede grass. (Bartlett, 2004)


Little wood satyrs have large eyespots that may confuse and deter predators. (Bartlett, 2004; Klots, 1951)

Ecosystem Roles

While feeding on nectar and sap, adult butterflies may pollinate plants. They pick up pollen and transfer it between plants while gathering food. However, adults rarely feed on nectar. (Bartlett, 2004; Holl, 1995)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • pollinates

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Little wood satyrs have no known positive economic importance to humans.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Little wood satyrs have no known negative economic importance to humans.

Conservation Status

Other Comments

Papilio cymela Cramer 1777

Euptychia cymela Cramer 1779

Two subspecies of little wood satyrs exist. (Bartlett, 2004; Marín, 2019)


Deena Hauze (author), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


having coloration that serves a protective function for the animal, usually used to refer to animals with colors that warn predators of their toxicity. For example: animals with bright red or yellow coloration are often toxic or distasteful.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

an animal that mainly eats leaves.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


an animal that mainly eats nectar from flowers


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


uses sight to communicate


Bartlett, T. 2004. "Species Megisto cymela - Little Wood Satyr" (On-line). Bug Guide. Accessed August 02, 2020 at

Holl, K. 1995. Nectar Resources and Their Influence on Butterfly Communities on Reclaimed Coal Surface Mines. Restoration Ecology, 3(2). Accessed August 02, 2020 at

Klots, A. 1951. A field guide to the butterflies of North America, east of the Great Plains. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Accessed August 02, 2020 at

Marín, M. 2019. "An overview of the Euptychiina (Satyrinae) diversity" (On-line). Congreso Sociedad Colombiana de Entomología, Memorias & Resúmenes. 46 Congreso Socolen, Medellín. Accessed August 02, 2020 at

Wernert, S. 1998. Reader's Digest North American Wildlife. New York: Readers Digest.