Butterflies of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance

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Scientific Name begins with:
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Once on a species account page, clicking on the "View PDF" link will show the flight data for that species, for each of the three regions of the state.
Other information, such as high counts and earliest/latest dates, can also been seen on the PDF page.

Related Species in NYMPHALIDAE:
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Common NameSouthern Pearly-eye by Roger Rittmaster => Moore Co.
[View PDF]
Click to enlarge
[Google Images]     BoA [Images ]
Scientific NameLethe portlandia
Link to BAMONA species account.
MapClick on a county for list of all database records for the species in that county.
DistributionDISTRIBUTION: Throughout the Coastal Plain and in most of the Piedmont; possibly absent in a few northern and a few foothill counties in the Piedmont. Only known in the mountains from the southern portions (Macon, Swain, Jackson, and Transylvania counties -- photos). Confusion with the very similar Northern Pearly-eye has caused much uncertainty about the range in the Piedmont, but there are photos for Surry and Stokes counties in the northwestern corner for solid documentation. A 2015 photo record from Swain County, shockingly in mid-November (!), extends the range slightly northward in the mountains.
AbundanceABUNDANCE: Locally fairly common to common in the Coastal Plain; uncommon in the eastern and southern Piedmont, and rare in the remainder of the province. Essentially absent in the mountains, except very rare in the southern counties.
FlightFLIGHT PERIOD: Two broods in each province. In the Coastal Plain and Piedmont, the first brood flies from late March or early April until late June or early July. The second brood flies between late June (Coastal Plain) or early July (Piedmont) and late October. Most mountain records are for the second brood; there is a small brood at least from late May (and certainly earlier) through June, and a larger brood from August into October, with an exceptional record for November 18.
HabitatHABITAT: Habitats are generally bottomlands, other moist forests (such as bay forests or moist maritime forests), and less frequently in upland forests. Cane (Arundinaria spp.) is always present in the habitat. They seldom venture far from forests, but they will fly along wooded trails, partly shaded roads through bottomlands, etc. Pearly-eyes (all three species) fly more in shaded places and more towards twilight than most other butterflies.
See also Habitat Account for General Cane Thickets
PlantsFOOD AND NECTAR PLANTS: The foodplants are canes (Arundinaria spp.), especially Switch Cane (A. tecta), a mainly Coastal Plain species. The butterflies do not nectar; they feed on sap, decaying fruit, mud or moist ground, etc.
CommentsCOMMENTS: This species can be quite common in a few places, such as in Kitty Hawk Woods and Nags Head Woods in coastal Dare County and in Howell Woods in Johnston County. The species looks quite similar to the Creole Pearly-eye, and is often found with it. Fortunately, these two species often perch on trails, on the ground, or on tree trunks, where they can be studied at leisure. Creole usually has 5 fore wing eyespots as opposed to mainly 4 in Southern (and Northern); and it shows a "knuckled" fore wing brown line on the underside of the wing, as opposed to a straighter line in the other species.

The species is extremely similar to Northern Pearly-eye and can only be separated by male genitalia and apparently by antennal club color; wing pattern and coloration are mostly unreliable. Southerns have a completely orange club. Northerns have black on the club, generally with an orange tip. Jeff Pippen discovered an apparently "new" field mark in 2020 by carefully examining photos of both species, and this has been corroborated by others checking their photos and locations. On both species, check the white "pupil" mark inside the hind wing eyespots below; Northerns have all of these as distinctly round "dots", whereas Southerns almost always have at least one (if not more) of these white pupils as lines or bars and not clear rounded "dots".


State RankS4
State Status
Global RankG4
Federal Status
SynonymEnodia portlandia
Other NamePearly Eye


Links to other butterfly galleries: [Cook] [Lynch] [Pippen] [Pugh]
Photo Gallery for Southern Pearly-eye
Photo by: Roger Rittmaster
Comment: Moore Co.
Southern Pearly-eye - Click to enlarge
Photo by: Kristy Baker
Comment: Scuppernong River Interpretive Boardwalk, Pocosin Lakes NWR, Columbia, Tyrrell County
Southern Pearly-eye - Click to enlarge
Photo by: Salman Abdulali
Comment: Boyd Lee Park, Pitt Co.
Southern Pearly-eye - Click to enlarge
Photo by: Lori Owenby
Comment: Catawba Co.
Southern Pearly-eye - Click to enlarge