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Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)

Pearl  Crescent
Habitat: Most open, sunny areas such as roadsides, old fields, gardens, pastures, and fallow agricultural fields Garden Abundance: Occasional Wingspan: 1.0 - 1.5in Range: From southern Minnesota to Florida and west to Colorado Larval Host Plants: Various asters (Aster spp.) including heath aster (A. ericoides) and smooth blue aster (A. laevis) Favorite Adult Nectar Sources: Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa), red swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and asters (Aster spp.)

One of the most abundant small butterflies in eastern North America, the pearl crescent is fond of most open locations, including old fields, roadsides, and pastures. It flies quickly and low to the ground, and often perches in low vegetation. The pearl crescent is orange above with numerous black markings and black wing borders. Females are slightly larger than males and have more pattern elements. The hind wings below vary depending on the temperature and daylength the developing larvae go through. Cool-season forms tend to be darker and more heavily marked.

Females deposit the small, green eggs in clusters on the underside of host leaves. The developing larvae are gregarious when young, and stay clustered under a silk web. As they grow larger, they move out and become solitary feeders. The mature caterpillar is dark brown with numerous spines and faint cream stripes. The pearl crescent breeds throughout the year as long as weather conditions and host quality permit. As cold temperatures approach, the larvae stop feeding and enter diapause to survive the winter months. Feeding and development resume in the spring. Adults live through the winter too, and can be seen out visiting flowers on warm days.

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