Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 1 1/4 - 1 3/4 inches (3.2 - 4.5 cm). Extremely variable. Males usually have black antennal knobs. The upperside is orange with black borders; postmedian and submarginal areas are crossed by fine black marks. The underside of the hindwing has a dark marginal patch containing a light-colored crescent. Spring and fall broods have a gray mottled hindwing below.

ID Tip: Look for hindwing crescent. 

Egg: Tiny. Pale whitish-green. Laid in clusters on the underside of host plant leaves

Caterpillar: Dark brown to charcoal gray with lateral cream stripes and many short, branched spines. Larvae feed gregariously through several stages.  Become more sollitary as they mature. Third instar caterpillars overwinter.

Chrysalis: Mottled brown, tan,or gray brown.

Pearl Crescents are found wherever asters flourish, and there is an aster for almost any habitat.  Pearls are the state’s most common crescent and may be found throughout warm months. Broods overlap and it is not uncommon to observe very worn butterflies sharing a flower with bright, freshly emerged individuals. In Alabama, Pearl Crescents are so common that they are the yardsticks by which all other crescents are measured. When looking at a small orange and black butterfly, identifiers should as, “What makes it not a Pearl Crescent?”

Distribution and Abundance

A dot on the county map indicates that there is at least one documented record of the species within that county. In some cases, a species may be common throughout the county, in others it may be found in only a specific habitat. The High Count information shows the highest numbers recorded for this species as well as when and where they occurred.

The sightings bar graphs depict the timing of flight(s) within each of three geographic regions. Place your cursor on a bar within the graph to see the number of individuals recorded during that period.

The abundance calendar displays the total number of individuals recorded within each week of the month. Both the graphs and the calendar are on based data collection that began in 2000.

The records analyzed here are only a beginning. As more data is collected, these maps and graphs will paint a more accurate picture of distribution and abundance in Alabama. Submit your sightings to albutterflyatlas@gmail.com.

Sightings in the following counties: Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Bibb, Blount, Bullock, Butler, Calhoun, chambers, Chambers, Cherokee, Chilton, Choctaw, Clarke, Clay, Cleburne, Coffee, Colbert, Conecuh, Coosa, Covington, Crenshaw, Cullman, Dale, Dallas, DeKalb, Elmore, Escambia, Etowah, Fayette, Franklin, Geneva, Greene, Hale, Henry, Houston, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Lee, Limestone, Lowndes, Macon, Madison, Marengo, Marion, Marshall, Mobile, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Randolph, Russell, Shelby, St. Clair, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Walker, Washington, Wilcox, Winston

  • Map Symbol for Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Map Symbol for Semi-Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Map Symbol for Old Sightings Sightings more than 10 years ago

High count(s):

  • 160 - Cleburne - 6/3/2017
  • 81 - Bibb - 5/19/2012
  • 75 - Franklin - 9/25/2016
County Distribution Map

View county names by moving the mouse over a county or view a map with county names

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1 2 3 39 38 60 256 263 269 504 247 170 118 196 228 438 244 204 122 161 196 158 169 112 178 168 465 463 275 212 356 341 250 160 148 94 35 12 4 5

Habitat

A wide variety of open sunny areas, including gardens. 

Host and Nectar Plants

Asters are widely reported throughout the range, but some species seem preferable to others.

Heartleaf Aster/Blue Wood Aster and Wavy Leaf Aster have been docmented in Alabama, but other species may also be used.

For more information about the documented host plants and/or nectar plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the following links:

Landscaping Ideas

Add asters to your landscape to provide host plants for Pearl Crescents. Some species seem to be preferable to others.  In addition to those listed above, New England Aster is reportedly delectable while New York Aster is rarely chosen.  Be sure to report aster host plant use in your garden to AlButterflyAtlas@gmail.com.

 Asters are also wonderful fall nectar sources for many butterflies, including Pearl Crescents.  A constant source of flowers such as Butterfly Milkweed, Purple Coneflower, and Black Eyed Susans may also entice Pearl Crescents into your landscape.