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Swamp Metalmark (Calephelis muticum)



Swamp metalmark (Calephelis mutica), a butterfly listed as Endangered in Wisconsin, has been found in alkaline wetlands (fens). Wet meadows, marshes or tamarack bogs may surround fen areas. Its host plant is swamp thistle, Cirsium muticum. The single two-week flight period occurs between mid-July and mid- August.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - both state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Swamp Metalmark (Calephelis muticum). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where occurrences of this species meet NHI data standards and is not meant as a comprehensive map of all observations.

Note: Species recently added to the NHI Working List may temporarily have blank occurrence maps.

Documented locations of Calephelis muticum in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.
Summary Information
State StatusEND
Federal Status in WisconsinSOC
State RankS1
Global RankG3
Tracked by NHIY

Species guidance

Swamp Metalmark (Calephelis muticum) has very few known occurrences in the state and is of the highest priority for conservation; we encourage you to consult with your District Ecologist or an NHI Zoologist for specific recommendations for your site.

Note: a species guidance document is not available at this time. Information below was compiled from publication PUB-ER-085-99 (now out-of-print).

Identification: A small butterfly with the upper wings of a dull red-brown background color and two metallic rows outlining the outer margins. The underside is bright golden orange with black speckles. The wingspan is 0.9-1.2 inches (24-30 mm). Larvae are distinctive pale green caterpillars covered profusely with long white hairs and are found on the leaves of swamp thistle (Cirsium muticum), the larval hostplant.

Habitat: Inhabits alkaline wetlands (fens). Some associated fen plants are grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia glauca), turtlehead (Chelone glabra), and lousewort (Pedicularis spp.). Wet meadows, marshes or tamarack bogs may surround fen areas. Shrubby cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa), swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), meadowsweet (Spirea tomentosa) and black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta) are recorded nectar plants in Wisconsin.

State Distribution: Occurs in Fond du Lac, Marinette, Marquette, Ozaukee and Washington Counties.

Phenology: The single two-week flight period occurs between mid-July and mid- August. Adults do not fly far and are mothlike in behavior. They will rest or bask with wings spread, even on the underside of leaves. Females lay their eggs singly on first year swamp thistle plants growing on the sedge hummocks. Older thistle plants that are tall or blooming and surrounded by long grasses covering the lower half of the plants are not used for oviposition. In two to four weeks the larvae appear and feed on the leaves. Under leaves with extensive feeding damage is the most productive place to search for larvae. Larvae overwinter on the basal rosettes of the first year plants and resume feeding in spring. After nine instar stages, pupation occurs in the leaf litter in late June to July.

Management Guidelines: Alkaline fen communities are rare in the state. Those that support swamp metalmark populations are few and care must be taken to keep the sites open from woody intrusion. Hand cutting and spot use of herbicide is recommended. The effects of fire management on swamp thistle is uncertain. Presently, fires should be applied only to overgrown habitat adjacent to areas currently supporting swamp metalmark populations.



Swamp Metalmark

The Wisconsin Endangered swamp metalmark is now extremely rare in the state. It occurs in calcareous fens and other alkaline wetlands that support swamp thistle, the larval food plant.

Photo © Mike Reese.

Swamp Metalmark

Swamp metalmark butterfly on cinquefoil, Lowe Lake in Washington County.

Photo © S. Sullivan Borkin.

Swamp Metalmark

Photo © Robert Borth.

Last revised: Wednesday, November 07, 2018