Ah the Wood Nymph butterfly. The rich chocolate color of fine leather or of a scrumptious Hershey bar. These medium sized butterflies capture the hiker’s imagination because from May to late September they are the trail markers that we encounter as we enjoy our way alongside forest edge, fields and most cut edges. Some zip away and out of sight, some fly ahead just 15 feet, while others hesitate and stand their ground.
Cercyonis pegala offers another benefit. They display fascinating diversity. While the markings of most other butterflies show hardly any variety, those of wood nymphs present a great deal of difference. Large eyes or smaller eyes, yellow, orange or intermediate colors, blues, or whites or indeterminate pastels in the eyes. Rich browns to a host of brown variations in the wing. You notice these things when you pause to examine your trail sentries. It just makes for fascinating travel.
I have been straining my brain to remember having ever seen a wood nymph butterfly nectaring at a flower. If I have and can’t remember, then even so I’ve spotted hundreds over the years, and though I’ve seen them at scat, and attracted them to traps of banana/fruit, visits to flowers elude my memory.
Our instant individual was on Nichol Road trail in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. On my approach it quickly flew off, straight to a nearby tree. It perched on the opposite side of the trunk. I approached very slowly, saw it there…and it allowed my to shoot quite a few macro- images. Probably a female, with larger eye spots and larger in size
I kept and now use this image because it effectively shares the real time look of wood nymphs and because of the nice interplay offered by bark and butterfly.
Here’s the view of the Wood Nymph Butterfly the first time that you ever see one. You’re probably on a trail that skirts the edge of a wooded habitat.
Two possibilities present themselves. Cercyonis pegala will 1) will flee, flying low and disappearing into dense tree undergrowth or into the field vegetation or 2) it will allow you to continue your approach and then flee.
We can presume that this one is a female. Females perch. Males patrol, searching for receptive females. When you first become fascinated with butterflies, the non-stop, seemingly senseless flight of male Wood Nymphs justifies your thinking that these butterflies are ‘crazy.’
So here again is a butterfly species that almost seems to be trailing/tracking you as you happily hike that trail along forest’s edge. This is the kind of escort that is appreciated as I spend hours working unspoiled habitat, on the hunt for butterflies to photograph. I see Wood Nymphs, but I don’t see humans for hours on end…I sometimes stop, look skyward and think………………………………………
Years have passed since I happened onto Wood Nymph butterflies with sky -blue eyespots. Those were at Raystown Lake in central Pennsylvania. They were speedsters and hid as soon as approached = no images!
I’ve sought images of Wood Nymph butterflies that are fresh and show sky-blue eyespots.
Not so easy to secure. They prefer trails at forest edges, especially with high grass fields adjacent. The fresh ones are gone in an instant, the worn ones, well they’re no longer striking brown, yellow yellow or baby-blue.
So here we have all of the above.
We haven’t posted an image of this butterfly with its wings fully opened because……………………………………. Because they rarely bask in the morning sun and open their wings for nanoseconds at a time. I’ve been on the look-out for Wood Nymphs resting with wings open. Ten years later, I’m still…………………………………..