In spite of the fact that the Carolina satyr is one of the most common butterflies found in many Georgia backyards, its photograph rarely graces calendars or is featured in popular magazines. Even in yards where it makes its home, since it almost never visits flowers, some homeowners do not realize it is there.
It prefers to live out its life in the moist, dark wooded spots where most flowering plants cannot live. Even when is seen in its shady lair, it is often mistaken for a drab moth. Indeed one could say it is our backyard ghost butterfly.
The Carolina satyr is a small butterfly with a wingspan of only an inch to an inch and a half. While it will never qualify as one of our most attractive butterflies, if you take the time to closely examine one resting on a dead leaf or twig, it quickly becomes apparent the pattern found on its ventral wings is quite attractive.
Some have described the butterfly’s color as muddy brown; however, many field guides say it is light brown. In fact, when the butterfly has its wings outstretched basking the sun; you can see the dorsal wings are devoid of any pattern. Consequently, if you did not know what you were looking at, you would be scratching you head wondering what it the world you what it is. Fortunately, for anybody trying to identify his or her first Carolina satyr, you do not often see a Carolina satyr in this pose.
When we see one at rest, more often than not, it has its wings closed above its body. In this position, the markings featured on the ventral side of the insect are clearly visible. Usually, the first things that catch your eye are the spots lining the trailing edge of the underwings. The two largest spots are located in the bottom corner on the hindwing. Each spot consists of a very small blue spot surrounded by a thick black ring. In turn, this ring is rimmed in yellow. Above these two prominent features, a series of smaller spots are positioned all the way to the tip of the wing. These markings also have yellow rims. A few will even have dark centers. The underwings also feature two black traverse lines and dashes, respectively.
Carolina satyrs are often seen fluttering about in shady woodlands, forest openings and nearby disturbed grassy areas. They also do well in shady backyard settings.
Here they prefer to feed on tree sap, animal droppings and rotting fruit. About the only time they are ever seen feeding at flowers is in late autumn.
The Carolina satyr flight can be best described as slow and bouncy. Those of us that watch butterflies appreciate the fact that Carolina satyrs rarely embark on extended flights. As such, I have found that when I flush one in a shady spot, if I immediately stop and wait a few moments, the butterfly will often alight a short distance away. This offers me the opportunity to take a glimpse of it through my binoculars or quickly snap a picture.
Carolina satyrs are found throughout the state. Depending upon where you live, you can see this delicate backyard ghost from late February until early November.
If you and wondering whether or not these small butterflies are present in your yard, visit some of the shadier area of your yard. Once there slowly walk about scanning the ground in front of you. If you happen to catch the glimpse something slowly moving from place to place, more than likely you are not having a close encounter with something that goes bump in the night. Instead you are probably looking at Georgia’s backyard ghost butterfly.