Mitchell's Satyr (Neonympha mitchellii mitchellii)
What is a Mitchell's Satyr?
The Mitchell's satyr (Neonympha mitchellii mitchellii, pronounced say-ter) is one of the world's rarest butterflies, found only in Michigan and Indiana. Mitchell's satyr is a dark, chocolate brown, medium-sized butterfly with a wing span that ranges from 1.5 to 1.75 inches (3.8-4.4 cm). The undersides of the wings contain a row of four to five black, yellow-ringed eyespots, with the central three eyespots on the hindwing being the largest. Two orange bands encircle the eyespots.
Mitchell's satyr adult butterflies typically fly between the third week of June to third week of July.
Mitchell's satyr is an endangered species. The biggest threat to the continued survival of this species is habitat loss and modification. Satyrs need a special kind of wetland habitat found in prairie fens, described below. Many of the fens occupied by the satyr have been altered or drained for agriculture or development. Wetland alteration also has also lead to invasion by exotic plant species which make the wetland unsuitable for satyrs. In addition, natural processes that may be important for maintaining suitable satyr habitat, such as wildfires, changes in water levels and chemistry, and flooding from beaver (Castor canadensis) activity, have been virtually eliminated or altered throughout the species' range.
A Federal Recovery Plan (9.16 MB PDF file) has been completed for Mitchell's satyr which guides conservation efforts for the satyr and its habitat. The Departments of Natural Resources in Indiana and Michigan received a grant in 2006 to write a plan that provides a comprehensive framework for managing prairie fens for Mitchell's satyr butterflies. This is called a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). The HCP is being written by the Indiana and Michigan DNR and partners, with input from interested citizens like you.
Fens: Mitchell's satyr habitat
A fen is a grassy wetland with peat soils that have a basic pH (the opposite of acidic). Fens usually have tamarack trees, poison sumac, and a profusion of wildflowers. This diversity of wildflowers makes fens a magnet for many insects, including butterflies. Fens also provide valuable habitat for deer, turkeys and other birds, as well as snakes, turtles and fish. The number of species of plants and animals is higher in fens than in many other wetlands and upland ecosystems.
Fens are also considered globally rare. They occur only in the parts of the Midwest scoured by glaciers. For more information on fens, visit the Michigan Natural Features Inventory Prairie Fen Abstract.