Posts Tagged ‘Phyciodes cocyta’

Butterflies find the hydrangea bush very attractive too. I spotted four species visiting the hydrangea flowers. One was the little crescent butterfly pictured above, who is shown perched on a brick surface near the bush. It is likely a Northern Crescent (Phyciodes cocyta), but could be a Pearl Crescent (P. tharos). The two species are difficult to differentiate. The Northern may be a bit larger and have fewer black markings, leaving orange areas more open. Both are small butterflies, with rounded forewings. Their preferred larval foodplants are asters.

A number of Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis) butterflies were visiting the shrub. On the under surface of the hindwing, you can see the small silvery marking for which this species is named, a curving comma and a white dot. The silhouette of the closed wings also demonstrates the source of a common name for these butterflies: anglewings.

This individual looked a little battered and tattered, but still very pretty. Question Marks fly spring through fall. There are two broods, and the second-brood adults hibernate and mate in the spring. It’s amazing to think of these seemingly delicate creatures surviving the winter.

The Viceroy (Limenitis archippus) is well-known as a mimic of the Monarch butterfly. It was once thought that the Viceroy gained protection by mimicking the noxious Monarch, but it is now believed that the Viceroy may also be distasteful to some predators itself. The Viceroy is smaller than the Monarch, and can be readily distinguished from the larger butterfly by the black band that crosses its mid-hindwing. The Monarch’s larval foodplant is milkweed, while Viceroy larvae dine on willows, and sometimes poplars or other trees.

White Admirals (Limenitis arthemis) are closely related to Viceroys. Like Viceroys, their larval plantfoods include willows, poplars and birches. While Question Marks hibernate as adults, White Admiral caterpillars born late in the summer use silk to roll up a leaf to hibernate in until spring. The white hydrangea flowers make a perfect backdrop for these beauties.

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Pearl Crescents (Phyciodes tharos) are small, round-winged orange and black butterflies of the Nymphalidae, or brush-footed butterfly family. Brush-footed refers to the fact that the front pair of legs of adults are greatly shortened and covered with tiny hairs, so that they look like little bottle-brushes. These front legs are difficult to see, so the butterfly appears to have four legs instead of six. Crescents get their name from a crescent-shaped mark on the lower side of the hind wing. The Pearl Crescent is a common butterfly, often seen in gardens or at meadow and roadside flowers. Males patrol areas near larval food plants, aster species, in search of females.


The Pearl Crescent range overlaps here with that of a couple of other crescent species, the Northern (Phyciodes cocyta) and the Tawny (Phyciodes batesii), making the identification of crescent species difficult. The crescents in the first and last photos may be Pearls, while the middle photo may show a Northern. They fly from flower to flower, close to the ground, alternating a series of flaps with flat-winged glides. Once the first crescents appear, they suddenly seem to be abundant.


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