Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 1¼ - 1¾ 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. 

When laying eggs, female Pearl Crescents cling to the upper surface of an aster leaf while curling their abdomens underneath.  They may remain virtually motionless for half an hour, carefully stacking minute white eggs into highly organized clusters. Young caterpillars are gregarious and stick close together while eating and resting. Older larvae venture out on their own.  Throughout spring and summer, one generation follows another, but as winter approaches, partially grown caterpillars stop eating and find shelter in a curled leaf.  There they remain in diapause until spring, when eating resumes. 

Pearl Crescents acquired their name because of a small pearly-white, crescent-shaped marking that occurs on the underside of their hindwing.  In Alabama, they are the yardsticks by which all other crescents are measured.  When looking at a small, orange and black butterfly, rule out Pearl Crescent before ruling anything else in!


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

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 3 2 2 7 56 99 149 530 460 429 628 415 257 204 293 372 629 506 377 350 257 303 253 414 229 330 351 697 662 591 352 558 472 428 310 304 190 71 15 13 5


A wide variety of open sunny areas, including gardens. 

Pearl Crescent
Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)
© Sara Bright
Forest opening with nectar sources
Pearl Crescent
Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)
© Sara Bright
Sunny field with nectar

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 these plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the links above.

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

 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.