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Swamp Metalmark (Calephelis muticum)

The Swamp Metalmark butterfly, a small yet fascinating species, thrives in the damp landscapes of the United States. Renowned for their preference for swampy or humid environments, these butterflies are distinguished by their unique rusty metal-like markings on their wings, which make them a subject of interest for both enthusiasts and researchers alike.

Swamp Metalmark

Scientific Classification

  • Family: Riodinidae
  • Genus: Calephelis
  • Scientific Name: Calephelis muticum


Swamp Metalmarks are not just any butterfly; they are a testament to nature’s intricate designs and adaptations. These creatures have honed their life cycles to align with the specific conditions of their habitats, showcasing a remarkable resilience and beauty that captivates those who encounter them. Their presence in various states highlights the ecological diversity and richness of the American landscape.

Description and Identification


The caterpillar stage of the Swamp Metalmark is as intriguing as its adult counterpart. Mature larvae boast long, almost fluffy white hairs that render them a cotton-like appearance, a unique characteristic among butterflies. These partially grown larvae overwinter, showcasing their adaptability to their environment.


Transitioning to the pupa stage, the chrysalis adopts a dull, darkish hue with varying shades, carrying over the larval hairs onto their bodies. They predominantly attach themselves to the underside of their host plants’ leaves, preparing for the final transformation into adulthood.

Adult Butterfly

The adult Swamp Metalmark is a marvel of nature’s artistry.

Sexual Dimorphism: This feature is either not present or very faintly so, with the females’ wings being slightly more rounded than those of their male counterparts.

Color and Appearance: In flight or at rest, these butterflies display vibrant reddish or rusty brown wings adorned with light checkered patterns when opened. Closed wings reveal a simpler pattern, with a dull orange base, black marks scattered throughout, and silvery-gray borders.

Average Wingspan: The wingspan of these butterflies ranges from 2.4 to 3 cm, a delicate size that belies their robust nature.

Flight Pattern: Despite their small size, Swamp Metalmarks exhibit a slow yet erratic flight pattern, a dance that reflects their intricate relationship with their environment.


The eggs of the Swamp Metalmark are turban-shaped and laid singly on the underside of the host plant, a testament to the butterfly’s meticulous nature and the intricacies of its life cycle.

Quick Facts

DistributionMichigan, Ohio, Missouri, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Iowa, and Kentucky
HabitatSwamps, bogs, marshes, and wet meadows
Lifespan of Adults8 to 12 days
Host PlantsCirsium muticum (marsh thistle) and Cirsium altissimum (roadside thistle)
Adult DietPrimarily flower nectar, with a preference for Rudbeckia hirta (black-eyed Susan)

How to Identify Swamp Metalmark?

Identifying a Swamp Metalmark butterfly involves observing several key characteristics. Beyond the distinctive rusty markings on their wings, one should note the environment in which they are found—typically moist and swampy areas. The caterpillars’ unique fluffy appearance and the pupae’s dull chrysalis are also indicative of this species. Observing their flight pattern, which is slow and somewhat erratic, can also provide clues. Additionally, their preference for certain host plants and flowers for nectar, such as the black-eyed Susan, can guide enthusiasts in spotting these elusive creatures in their natural habitat.

Did You Know?

  • Older caterpillars of the Swamp Metalmark exhibit a unique feeding pattern on their host leaves, leaving behind a distinct windowpane pattern. This not only marks their presence but also showcases their complex relationship with their environment.
  • Despite their short adult lifespan of 8 to 12 days, Swamp Metalmarks play a crucial role in pollination, contributing significantly to the biodiversity and health of their habitats.


The Swamp Metalmark butterfly, with its unique characteristics and behaviors, is a fascinating subject for study and observation. Its presence across various states underscores the importance of preserving natural habitats and ecosystems. As we learn more about these creatures, we gain insights into the complexity of nature and the interconnectedness of life. The Swamp Metalmark reminds us of the beauty and resilience found in even the smallest of beings, urging us to appreciate and protect the natural world around us.

Swamp Metalmark Pictures

Calephelis Muticum

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Scientific Classification

  • Family: Riodinidae
  • Genus: Calephelis
  • Scientific Name: Calephelis muticum
Published by Avatar on November 27, 2018.
Last Updated: February 21, 2024. ✅ Verified by: Butterfly Team