Common Wood Nymph Butterfly

Common Wood Nymph Butterfly – Cercyonis pegala

Live adult butterflies photographed in the wild at northern Illinois  Nymphalidae / Subfamily: Satyrinae – Satyrs & Wood Nymphs

common wood nymph

I can tell you from bitter experience, this is one of the most elusive butterflies to photograph. They are very wary and almost never stop moving for very long. I consider myself lucky after many hours of chasing these creatures to have these few images.
Common Wood Nymph Butterfly

Identification: Geographically variable. Wings are brown. Upperside of forewing has 2 large yellow-ringed eyespots. Lowerside of hindwing has a variable number of small eyespots. Southern and coastal butterflies are larger and have a yellow or yellow-orange patch on the outer part of the forewing. Inland butterflies are smaller and have the yellow forewing patch reduced or absent.

Life history: Males patrol for females with a dipping flight through the vegetation. In late summer, females lay eggs singly on host plant leaves. Caterpillars hatch but do not feed, instead hibernating until spring.

Flight: One brood from late May-October. Females emerge later than males. Wing span: 1 3/4 – 3 inches (4.5 – 7.6 cm). Caterpillar hosts: Purpletop (Tridens flavus) and other grasses.
Adult food: Rotting fruit, flower nectar.
Habitat: Large, sunny, grassy areas including prairies, open meadows, bogs, and old fields.
Range: Southern Canada and the continental United States except for most of the Southwest and Texas, southern peninsular Florida, and northern Maine.


  1. Opler, Paul A. Butterflies and Moths of North America
  2. National Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects & Spiders Chanticleer Press 1980
  3. Eric Eaton & Ken Kaufman, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America

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