Swamp metalmark (Calephelis mutica)

Swamp metalmark
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Swamp metalmark fact file

Swamp metalmark description

GenusCalephelis (1)

The swamp metalmark (Calephelis mutica) is an orange-brown butterfly of North America that is brighter and sharper in colour than its relatives (3). While some swamp metalmark individuals have a bold, black thorax, most are coloured with distinct orange-brown and black stripes. The underside of the wings is often yellow-orange. The swamp metalmark also often has small, irregular spots, which have a metallic iridescence, along the edges of the wings (2) (3) (4)

Wingspan: 2.2 - 2.8 cm (2)

Swamp metalmark biology

Adult swamp metalmarks appear in late summer in the northernmost parts of its range, where it produces a single brood each year. In the southern parts of its range, this species produces multiple broods, with adults appearing in late spring and again in late summer (5) (6). The female swamp metalmark lays the eggs on thistles, upon which the larvae feed. The larvae, which are covered in dense white hairs as camouflage against their thistle host, metamorphose in spring (5).   

The adult swamp metalmark feeds on the nectar of yellow flowers, such as black-eyed susans (Rudbeckia hirta) (7).


Swamp metalmark range

The swamp metalmark can be found within fragmented areas of Wisconsin, the Ozark Mountains and the Ohio Valley in the United States (2)

In Wisconsin, the swamp metalmark has been spotted in Fond du Lac, Marinette, Marquette, Ozaukee and Washington Counties (5).  Historically this species also occupied central Kentucky, eastern Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania (4) (5).


Swamp metalmark habitat

Suitable habitat for the swamp metalmark includes grasslands, wetlands, alkaline fens and moist to wet meadows in peatland (2) (3) (5). It lives in close association with native thistles, which are the primary food source for the larval swamp metalmark (5).


Swamp metalmark status

The swamp metalmark has not yet been classified by the IUCN.


Swamp metalmark threats

The swamp metalmark typically only moves over an area of just a few hundred yards over the course of its lifetime, meaning that habitat fragmentation is a severe threat to the future survival of this species. Fire suppression and human use of wetlands are the two primary threats to the swamp metalmark’s habitat (5)


Swamp metalmark conservation

Although the swamp metalmark has not been the target of any known conservation measures, it is listed by a number of U.S. states as ‘Critically Imperilled’, ‘Imperilled’ or ‘Vulnerable’. A potential conservation measure for this species would be to introduceit into prairie preserves to increase its range (5).


Find out more

Find out more about the swamp metalmark:

  • Bess, J. (2005) Conservation Assessment for the Swamp Metalmark (Calephelis mutica McAlpine). USDA Forest Service, Eastern Region.


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This species information was authored as part of the ARKive and Universities Scheme.


Having a pH greater than 7.0. Soil is regarded as alkaline if it has a pH between 8.0 and 10.0. Alkaline soils are usually rich in calcium ions.
Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
An abrupt physical change from the larval to the adult form.
An extensive area of flat or rolling, predominantly treeless grassland, especially the large tract or plain of central North America.
Part of the body located between the head and the abdomen in animals. In insects, the three segments between the head and the abdomen, each of which has a pair of legs.


  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2011)
  2. Bess, J. (2005) Conservation Assessment for the Swamp Metalmark (Calephelis mutica McAlpine). USDA Forest Service, Eastern Region. 
  3. Glassberg, J. (1999) Butterflies Through Binoculars: The East. Oxford University Press, New York. 
  4. Opler, P. (1998) Peterson Field Guides: Eastern Butterfiles. Houghton Mifflin, New York. 
  5. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - Swamp metalmark,Calephelis muticum (August, 2011)
  6. Brock, J. and Kaufman, K. (2003) Field Guide to Butterflies of North America.  Houghton Mifflin, New York. 
  7. Butterflies and Moths of North America (August, 2011)

Image credit

Swamp metalmark  
Swamp metalmark

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This species is found in Wisconsin's Northwoods and has been profiled with the support of a Wisconsin-based family who care deeply about the area. To learn more visit our eco-region pages.

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