Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wing Span: 1 1/4 - 1 7/8 inches (3.2 - 4.8 cm). The upperside is black with small white spots and some rusty red near the wing bases. The outer margin of the forewing is indented below the tip. The hindwing has a band of cream-colored spots.

ID Tip: A dark crescent with orange markings. Square white marks form a continuous median line on dorsal hindwing.

Egg: Tiny light green globes laid in clusters on the underside of host plant leaves.

Caterpillar: Dark brown with small white dashes and creamy stripes on the sides. Spines are pale brown.  The head is black. The caterpillars feed en masse throughout their early stages.  They lay many trails of silk threads to anchor themselves to the plant and to serve as road maps for their siblings.  Partially grown larvae overwinter.

Chrysalis: Golden brown

Texan Crescents are southern-based butterflies that have extended their range northward. They are found in tight, distinct colonies, and within those, may be abundant.  They are the dark crescents that inhabit our state: Pearls and Phaons are orange butterflies with dark markings; Texans reverse the pattern.  With populations located mainly within the Coastal Region, they are bottomland butterflies, typically living near creeks, lakes, or rivers. Unlike their more sun-loving crescent relatives, they typically choose shaded edges and dappled sunlight, although they may imbibe moisture on sunny riverbanks.

Texan Crescents are an excellent example of why it is important to determine local host plants.  Virtually all the literature lists various water willows (Justicia spp.) as the primary, if not sole, Texan Crescent caterpillar hosts.  Yet in the few known Alabama colonies, extensive searches of water willow yielded no caterpillars, and the crescents in the area were not found in its direct vicinity.  Sara Bright and Paulette Ogard discovered that Texan Crescents chose to use another Acanthus family member, Branched Foldwing (Dicliptera brachiata), as their host at sites along the Alabama River.  Water Willow may be used elsewhere in Alabama, but the use of Branched Foldwing is an important piece of this uncommon species' life history puzzle.

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 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, Clarke, Dallas, Elmore, Jefferson, Monroe, Perry

  • Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Sightings more than 10 years ago
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
5 1 1 9 1 1 29 12 3 8 2 3 2 72

Habitat

Bottomlands and adjacent openings.  

Host and Nectar Plants

Various plants in the Acanthus family (Acanthaceae), especially water willows (Justicia spp.) are reported in other areas.

This host plant has been verified in Alabama: Branched Foldwing (Dicliptera brachiata).

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

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