Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 1¾ - 3 inches (4.5 - 7.6 cm). Wings are brown. The upperside of the forewing has 2 large yellow-ringed eyespots. The lowerside of the hindwing has a variable number of small eyespots. Alabama's Common Wood Nymphs have a yellow or yellow-orange patch on the outer part of the forewing. 

ID Tip: Large yellow forewing patches with two very prominent eyespots. Another popular common name was once "Goggle-Eye."

Egg: Pearly orb laid singly on host plant.

Caterpillar: Green with dark green lower stripe and light side stripes.The body is covered with very short, whitish hiars.  Head is rounded.  Two small tails are light brown. Tiny, first stage (instar) caterpillars are the overwintering stage.

Chrysalis: Yellow-green with white on upper surface and along the edge of the wing case. Often hangs from a grass stem.

Common Wood Nymphs go to great lengths to evade predators.  When alarmed, they quickly dart to grassy thickets or perch on tree bark, where their striated brown uderwings allow them to visually disappear. If danger persists, they may quickly open and close their wings to startle the agressor with their yellow patches and prominent eyespots.  If all else fails, they may drop to the ground like a falling leaf.

Common Wood Nymphs are single brooded.  Males emerge in early summer, usually several days before their female counterparts.  When females emerge, mating occurs and the male life cycle runs its course.  Females live on in a state of reproductive diapause; during July and August as seldom seen as they hide in nearby woodlands.  In late summer, females become more active and deposit eggs on or near host grasses. When eggs hatch, tiny caterillars hibernate through the winter, becoming active when grass begins to grow the following spring.  


Distribution and Abundance

A dot on the county map indicates that there is at least one documented record of the species within that county. In some cases, a species may be common throughout the county, in others it may be found in only a specific habitat. The High Count information shows the highest numbers recorded for this species as well as when and where they occurred.

The sightings bar graphs depict the timing of flight(s) within each of three geographic regions. Place your cursor on a bar within the graph to see the number of individuals recorded during that period.

The abundance calendar displays the total number of individuals recorded within each week of the month. Both the graphs and the calendar are on based data collection that began in 2000.

The records analyzed here are only a beginning. As more data is collected, these maps and graphs will paint a more accurate picture of distribution and abundance in Alabama. Submit your sightings to

Sightings in the following counties: Baldwin, Bibb, Blount, Calhoun, Cherokee, Chilton, Cleburne, Colbert, Covington, Dallas, DeKalb, Escambia, Etowah, Geneva, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Madison, Marion, Mobile, Pickens, Randolph, Shelby, Sumter, Tuscaloosa, Walker, Washington, Wilcox

  • Map Symbol for Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Map Symbol for Semi-Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Map Symbol for Old Sightings Sightings more than 10 years ago

High count(s):

  • 15 - Pickens - 7/3/2020
  • 6 - Baldwin - 8/11/2012
  • 6 - Pickens - 6/13/2020
County Distribution Map

View county names by moving the mouse over a county or view a map with county names

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1 10 12 20 33 17 11 10 6 13 4 6 20 7 13 11 6 6 1


A variety of open, sunny habitats such as wet meadows, upland fields, prairies, and open woodlands with tall grassy areas. 

Common Wood Nymph
Common Wood Nymph (Cercyonis pegala)
© Sara Bright

Host and Nectar Plants

Various grasses, including Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoprium), Purple Top (Triden flavus), and Poverty Oatgrass (Danthonia spicata), are reported in other parts of the range.  

No host plant have yet been verified in Alabama.

Landscaping Ideas

Including native grasses in the landscape supports the caterpillars of many butterfly species, including Common Wood Nymph.