Butterfly Guide: Pearl Crescent Butterfly

The Pearl crescent butterfly lives all around the US and is unique for its lace-like webbing pattern on the wings.

Pearl Crescent Butterfly Species Summary

Scientific NamePhyciodes tharos
Family NameNymphalidae
HabitatOpen areas like pastures, vacant lots, road edges
RangeEastern United States and Mexico
Host PlantAsters
Butterfly DescriptionThe upperside is orange with borders, and the submarginal areas contain fine black patterns
Caterpillar DescriptionBrown with spikes and prominent black eyes

What does a Pearl Crescent butterfly look like?

Pearl Crescent Butterfly
Pearl Crescent Butterfly

The Pearl crescent butterfly has a variable pattern. Their uppersides are orange with black borders, while postmedian and submarginal areas are crossed by fine black marks. Males are paler than females. Males also come with black antenna knobs, while females don’t.

The undersides of the hindwings have a dark marginal line with a lightly colored crescent. Spring and fall broods have grey-mottled hindwings. The wingspan ranges from 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 inches.

Why Are They Called Pearl Crescent Butterflies?

They’re named this way because of their pattern on the hindwing’s undersides. The mark is a dark patch that goes around the pale crescent.

Similar Colored Butterfly Species

Northern crescentMore orange with fewer dark spots
Silvery checkerspotSimilar to pearl, with more gumdrop-shaped spots
Phaon crescentIt has a distinct cream-colored median band on the forewing
Tawny CrescentA similar pattern but a slightly rounder wing shape

Caterpillar Physical Description

Pearl Crescent Caterpillar
Pearl Crescent Caterpillar

Caterpillars are brown/charcoal gray with lateral cream stripes. They have many short spines. The chrysalis is whitish-grey or yellow-brown with tiny ridges on the upper side. Caterpillars eat the host plant leaves.

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Pearl Crescent Butterfly Lifespan

Egg Stage4 to 10 days
Caterpillar Stage21 days
Chrysalis Stage5 to 12 days
Butterfly Stage4 to 10 days

Preferred Habitat

The Pearl crescent butterfly likes open areas such as:

  • Open pine woods
  • Pastures
  • Roadsides
  • Fields
  • Vacant lots

What is the host plant for the pearl crescent butterfly?

New England aster, calico aster, purple-stemmed aster, panicled aster, and smooth aster are ideal planting choices to attract the Pearl crescent butterfly species.

The larvae feed on smooth-leaved plants, such as true asters, including:

  • Bushy aster
  • New England aster
  • Heath aster
  • Many-flowered aster
  • Whorled aster
  • Smooth aster
  • Panicled aster
  • Purple-stemmed aster
  • Calico aster

What does a Pearl Crescent butterfly eat?

Larval food plants are asters (Symphyotrichum). Adults will eat the nectar from a variety of flowers:

  • Dogbane
  • Swamp milkweed
  • Winter cress
  • Shepherd’s needle

The Pearl crescent butterfly will often drink from wet puddles on the ground, congregating with other butterflies.

Usual Behavior

After they emerge from the cocoon, Pearl crescent butterflies will congregate around mud puddles. These butterflies usually fly low, near the ground, alternating between gliding and flapping their wings. While they feed, they’ll use a siphoning technique to draw the nectar out.

Once they’re done with the puddle, they will disperse into a nearby field. Males will fly around, looking for females to mate with. This species is also highly competitive and active. They’ll often dart to other butterflies that invade their territory. On the other hand, females get along fine.

Common Predators

All stages of this butterfly’s lifecycle provide food for predators. Birds, insects, and spiders are their most common predators. As with other butterflies, snakes, lizards, wasps, and rodents may also be a threat, depending on the Pearl’s location.


The usual sightings of the Pearl crescent butterfly include:

  • New Mexico
  • Arizona
  • Montana
  • Wyoming
  • Colorado

It’s present around Mexico and areas of southern Canada. Since these butterflies are present throughout the United States, it’s hard to estimate their exact population number. One thing is certain — they aren’t threatened.

Do Pearl Crescent Butterflies Migrate?

Pearl crescent butterflies do not migrate. This butterfly hibernates (overwinters) during the third caterpillar instar.

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