Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Cercyonis Scudder, 1875. Type species: Papilio alope Fabricius (= Cercyonis pegala (Fabricius))
?Hypanophele Muschamp, 1915. Type species: Papilio lycaon Rottemburg
Explanation of Names
The genus Cercyonis in North America is very closely related to the genus Hypanophele of Eurasia, and they perhaps should be considered as one genus; however, Lepidopterists currently treat the two as separate genera. The European English common name for the group is the "Meadow Browns".
Most authors in North America recognize three or more species, depending on differing opinions of species limits. Most often four are recognized (C. oetus, C. meadii, C. sthenele, & C. pegala); however, C. sthenele & C. meadii tend to intergrade where their ranges overlap, and are sometimes treated as one species. Some polulations called C. pegala may actually represent distinct species.
The group is much more diverse in Eurasia, and there perhaps 30 or 40 species of Hypanephele.
Eurasian genera Aphantopus, Maniola, Minois, & Pyronia are also perhaps closely related, and Minois is very similar in appearance.
Grayish brown to deep brown butterflies with two (rarely only one) prominent blue-centered black eye spots on both sides of the front wings, and zero to five on the under hind wing (sometimes one or two above). The upper side is rather plain in pattern, but there may be a paler creamy, yellowish, or reddish patch around the front wing eye spots. The underside is lighter in color and crossed by many fine dark striations and usually a dark irregular line crosses the near the middle, dividing the base from the often slightly lighter area beyond. The wings are broad; the hind wings with scalloped margins (less so in males than females).
Few genera are likely to be confused with these. Most other Satyriidae of similar appearance are smaller, or occur in different environments (such as Erebia species found at higher elevations and further north). The scalloped hind wing margin is lacking in most other genera.
Gryocheilus patrobas is similar, but larger than most Cercyonis except C. pegala. It flies in late summer in mountains near the Mexican border in New Mexico and Arizona, and is unlikely to be seen with Cercyonis, but it is possible. Gryocheilus has four distinct black eye spots on the front wings (instead of two), is even darker and is more evenly patterned below, and has a reddish patch along the outer margins of the hind wings.
These usually dark butterflies are seen flying with a lazy bobbing flight through sunny, usually open or lightly wooded grassy areas, but are deceptively fast and agile if chased, often dashing through shrubbery as if it weren't there. They usually occur near trees, and like to take refuge within their branches, often sitting, wings folded, almost invisible on their lower branches.
Adults occur in summer, but the flight time varies somewhat with the species and the local climate. The flight season is usually long, lasting for at least a month or two, and males are often seen flying before females.
Adults visit tree sap, moist ground, and take nectar from flowers. Larvae use assorted Grasses for food.