Appalachian Brown: All You Need to Know

The Appalachian Brown, scientifically known as Lethe appalachia, is a medium-sized butterfly native to the Appalachian region of the United States.

With a wingspan ranging from 1¾ to 2¼ inches (4.8 to 5.7 cm), this butterfly exhibits a distinct pattern of eyespots on its wings, giving it a unique and striking appearance.

The ventral forewing typically has four eyespots, while the hindwing boasts six or seven, each surrounded by white-dotted “pupils” and rings of yellow, brown, and white creating a bull’s-eye effect.

Appalacian Brown

In its natural habitat, the Appalachian Brown can often be found in wooded areas near streams and other wetlands. They prefer shaded environments, where they blend in with the surrounding foliage.

The butterfly’s caterpillar feeds primarily on grasses, while the adult prefers nectar-rich flowers that grow in the Appalachian region.

Understanding the Appalachian Brown butterfly can provide valuable insights into the biodiversity and ecology of the Appalachian Mountains.

With its unique appearance and fascinating habits, this species is an essential part of the region’s ecosystems, contributing to the balance and beauty of its natural environment.

Appalachian Brown Overview

History and Origin

The Appalachian Brown (Lethe appalachia) is a butterfly species native to the Appalachian region.

The butterfly features medium brown wings with ventral forewings displaying four eyespots and hindwings presenting six or seven. These white-dotted “pupils” are circled with yellow, brown, and white, creating a striking bull’s-eye effect.

Geographical Distribution

These particular butterflies are commonly found in the Appalachian region, a vast area including parts of Georgia, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Virginia. The Appalachian region is notable for its rich biodiversity and unique ecosystems.

Appalachian Brown Features

Physical Characteristics

The Appalachian Brown (Lethe appalachia) is a butterfly with a wingspan of 1¾ – 2¼ inches (4.8 – 5.7 cm). It has medium brown wings, and its ventral forewing features four eyespots.

The hindwing contains six or seven eyespots, with white-dotted “pupils” ringed in yellow, brown, and white to create a distinctive bull’s-eye effect. The size of these eyespots may vary.

There are other brown-colored butterflies as well, like the Brown Pansy Butterfly, the common evening brown butterfly, and more.

An Appalachian Brown butterfly

Behavior and Lifestyle

  • The Appalachian Brown is part of the wildlife in the Appalachian region
  • This butterfly species is involved in pollination, benefiting the ecosystem

As a butterfly, the Appalachian Brown goes through typical stages of metamorphosis, including egg, larva, pupa, and adult.

The butterfly’s mind and body transform through each stage, allowing it to adapt to its changing environment.

The Appalachian Brown’s behavior and lifestyle are quite different from that of a bat, as it’s an insect, while a bat is a mammal. The butterfly is active during the day.

However, bats play additional roles in their ecosystems such as predation on insects and seed dispersal.

Source:  Image Number 1115080 at Forestry Images, a source for forest health, natural resources, and silviculture images operated by The Bugwood Network at the University of Georgia and the USDA Forest Service

Life Cycle

The cycle starts when the males try to attract females by patrolling and occasionally perching in tiny sunlit units. These butterflies undergo the entire process of metamorphosis.

Eggs
After mating, the female butterflies search for a suitable spot to lay their eggs. They usually go for areas that boast an abundance of food for the caterpillars. Host plants, like sedges, especially Tussock Sedge (Carex Stricta) are excellent spots to lay the eggs.

Caterpillars
Once hatched, the caterpillar shift to the host plant. Interestingly, these insects hide at the base of the plant during the day and eat at night. Also, the caterpillars born late can hibernate throughout the winter before emerging as adults.

Pupa
Once these caterpillars have eaten enough, they move into the pupal stage by enclosing themselves in a chrysalis.

Adults
After a week or ten days, the adult butterflies start emerging from the pupa. These adults have medium brown wings, with the ventral forewing featuring four eyespots.

Conservation and Research

Efforts to conserve the natural habitats of the Appalachian Brown butterfly and other wildlife are essential. Researchers, for instance, explore into the impacts of human activities on wildlife in the region.

They set up tents and delve into the woods to study the local ecosystem.

One way to protect the Appalachian Brown butterfly and its habitat is through the establishment of conservation areas. These areas prioritize the preservation of native species and their environments.

They also serve as spaces where researchers can observe and monitor wildlife populations without disruption.

Source: Image Number 1226294 at Forestry Images, a source for forest health, natural resources and silviculture images operated by The Bugwood Network at the University of Georgia and the USDA Forest Service

 Conservation AreasNon-conservation Areas
Pros1. Protects habitat1. Allows for development
 2. Preserves species2. Economic growth
Cons1. Limits land use1. Decreased biodiversity
 2. Requires funding2. Habitat destruction

Conclusion

In summary, the Appalachian Brown butterfly thrives in the rich natural environment of the Appalachian region. The woods provide ample resources and shelter for the diverse wildlife.

Conservation efforts and ongoing research contribute to a better understanding of these species and their habitats, helping to protect and preserve them for future generations.

Footnotes

  1. Appalachian Brown – Alabama Butterfly Atlas 2

  2. Indigenous Appalachia – West Virginia University 2

  3. https://collections.library.appstate.edu/research-aids/african-american-cultural-influence-appalachia

  4. https://libguides.wvu.edu/indigenousappalachia/who

Readers’ Mail

Over the years, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Appalacian Brown

Appalachian Brown butterfly? 1 of 3
Bugman,
Thought I was taking a picture of an Appalachian Brown butterfly in the mountains of Georgia but when I began to research it, I notice there were only three eyespots on the underside of the forewings instead of the usual four.

And there seemed to be no spots on the upperside of the forewings. Could this be the difference between the male and female? I don’t know. I will send you several photos in separate emails so you can see.

These photos are untouched. Looking forward to you answer.
Patrick Crone

Hi Patrick,
We agree that this is an Appalacian Brown, Satyrodes appalachia. The Satyr butterfies often have variations and it is possible that the one eyespots is so faint as to be undetectable. We don’t believe this is any indication of the sex of the butterfly.

Letter 2 – Appalacian Brown

Subject: Maybe an Appalacian Brown butterfly?
Location: Troy, VA
August 15, 2016 9:36 am
This somewhat the worse for wear butterfly was on the house bricks last night. He only stayed for a short while and then flew off.

I realize lacking a chunk of wing makes it more difficult to identify, but his other wing was in even worse shape. Fortunately for the butterfly, the missing wing pieces didn’t impair its ability to fly. I think perhaps it’s an Appalacian brown?
Signature: Grace Pedalino

Appalacian Brown
Appalacian Brown

Dear Grace,
We had our doubts, but we now concur that this is an Appalacian Brown,
Lethe appalachia, after reading this BugGuide description: 

“Adult: wings medium brown. Lower side of forewing with the two end eyespots larger than the middle two; spots may not touch. Dark line inside the hindwing row spot is sinuous or gently curving (not zigzagged, as it is in the Eyed Brown).” 

Once we compared BugGuide images of the two species, we agree that the line on the hindwing is sinuous, not zigzagged.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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