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Species Phyciodes cocyta - Northern Crescent - Hodges#4481.1

Butterfly2 - Phyciodes cocyta - female Northern Crescent - underwing - Phyciodes cocyta - male Pearl crescent? - Phyciodes cocyta Northern Crescent - Phyciodes cocyta Crescent Butterfly 426A 2677 - Phyciodes cocyta Pearl or Northern Crescent - Phyciodes cocyta Phyciodes cocyta - Northern Crescent - Hodges#4481.1 - Phyciodes cocyta Northern or Pearl Crescent Butterflies - Phyciodes cocyta
Show images of: caterpillars · adults · both
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
Superfamily Papilionoidea (Butterflies and Skippers)
Family Nymphalidae (Brush-footed Butterflies)
Subfamily Nymphalinae (Crescents, Checkerspots, Anglewings, etc.)
Tribe Melitaeini
Genus Phyciodes (Crescents)
Species cocyta (Northern Crescent - Hodges#4481.1)
Hodges Number
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Papilio Nymphalis Phalerata cocyta Cramer, 1777. Type locality: "Surinam" (in error). Neotype designated by Scott (1994) from Black Rock, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
Papilio Plebejus Ruralis morpheus Fabricius, 1775. Type locality: “America boreali”.
Melitaea selenis W. Kirby, 1837. Type locality: “North America”. Defined as “Cumberland House Sask.” by Scott (1994).
?Melitaea Marcia W. Kirby, 1837. Type locality: Coalburgh, Kanawha Valley, West Virginia [This specimen looks suspiciously like Phyciodes tharos; the abdomen, palpi, antennae, and some of the legs are missing.]
Phyciodes nycteis var. pascoensis W. G. Wright, 1905. Type locality: Pasco, Franklin County, Washington
Phyciodes tharos arctica dos Passos, 1935. Type locality: Port au Port, Table Mountain, Newfoundland
Phyciodes cocyta diminutor Scott, 1998. Type locality: northeast of Conger, Freeborn County, Minnesota [Possibly, this is a distinct species from P. cocyta ?]
Phyciodes cocyta arenacolor Austin, 1998. Type locality: T21N R63E S25 Warm Springs, Steptoe Valley, White Pine County, Nevada, 1798 m

note: added by David J. Ferguson, February 1, 2014 [opinion]
Phyciodes batesii anasazi Scott, 1994. Type locality: near Gateway, Mesa County, Colorado.
Phyciodes batesii apsaalooke Scott, 1994. Type locality: W Hidden Basin Campground, Bighorn County, Wyoming.
It seems doubtful whether these are really subspecies of P. batesii. However, male individuals can show a distinct resemblance to P. batesii due to the often well developed and bold dark pattern of the front wings. Subspecies anasazi intergrades freely with ssp. selenis in an elevational/environmental cline, and does not behave as a separate species entity. It is found at lower elevations and/or warmer drier enviroments than "typical" subspecies selenis, primarily on the Pacific Slope of the Southern Rocky Mountains and in the Colorado Plateus in Colorado Utah, n. Arizona, and perhaps nw. New Mexico. Subspecies apsaalooke is very similar to anasazi, but averages even darker, and occurs in the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming (and probably adjacent Montana). From P. batesii these are readily distinguished by where found, and by distinctly orange apices (especially lower side) of the antennal clubs. Wing pattern is usually noticeably different and more like P. cocyta in construction, but single unvarying traits that don't overlap in the two species seem mostly lacking. In P. batesii there is usually less contrasting dark or whitish coloring in the apical portion of the under front wing, which is instead prevelantly shades of orange; the darkish patch around the crescent at the outer margin of the lower hind wing is usually much less pronounced (sometimes entirely absent); both traits most noticeable in males. "True" P. batesii does not occur westward much past the east base of the Rockies in Canada and northern Montana, and probably not in the Rockies at all southward from northern Montana.
Regardless, current literature treatment of these subspecies places them under P. batesii and if posted they will be placed there on BugGuide for now.
Explanation of Names
Formerly called Phyciodes selenis. Scott (1994) considered the names selenis and cocyta as belonging to the same species, with the later being the older name of priority, and thus replacing the name selenis. The name selenis is now considered to represent a subspecies of P. cocyta; however, that interpretation could change as more is learned, and it is quite likely that more subspecies (and perhaps species) will be distinguished from what is now included in broad concepts of Phyciodes cocyta and ssp. selenis.
wingspan 25-35 mm (CBIF)
wingspan 32-48 mm (
Easily confused with Phyciodes batesii and especially with P. tharos. P. batesii always has dark antennal clubs, as do nearly all male (and often female) P. tharos east from the Great Plains. P. tharos flies in multiple broods in warmer environments than P. cocyta, which in most areas only flies in spring and early summer. P. tharos is usually smaller with a more complete dark pattern above, more often with veins distinctly black through discal area of hind wing. There are large areas where only P. cocyta or P. tharos occur, and this alone will often make distinction simple.
P. cocyta has tip and much of underside of male antennal clubs orange; wings with upperside orange-brown with dark borders, hindwing typically with broad open orange area; underside of male (and sometimes female) hindwing orange (fading to tan) with rusty brown patch surrounding pale marginal crescent; female with a more developed and extensive dark pattern than male, and underside of hind wing paler with a more distinct pattern of dark lines.
Pearl Crescents and Northern Crescents are often confused, and the identity of some examples shown on Butterfly websites and in books is debatable. Generally Northerns are obviously larger and dominated by orange above, with the dark borders tending to be narrower. The veins in the mid portion of the wing are more likely to be orange than in Pearl Crescents (more likely mostly black there). Pearls, especially the males, tend to have a lot more black above, and often very wide dark borders. Below Northerns tend to be more orange on the hind wings. Pearls often have the antennal clubs entirely dark or with only a small whitish tip (apparently the males always do in the Northeast), but this varies from place to place and individually. None of these is a totally relaible trait by itself, and the "overall picture" is important, one needs to avoid focusing on just one or two details when trying to separate these two species, and different traits may work better or worse in one region than in another. The traits of a line through the middle of the hind wing with dark veins in Pearls, and not in Northerns (at least in males) doesn't always work, and should be taken with a grain of salt.

note of caution: Some examples shown here on BugGuide may be incorrectly identified, since identifications based only on a photograph are difficult, and could in some cases be mistaken. It will be noticed in reading comments under postings of these closely related species that identication is often problematic, and sometimes uncertain at best.
from Newfoundland and Nunavut to Yukon Territory, south in the western mountains to Utah, southeast Arizona, and southern New Mexico; south in the Appalachians to Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia
wide variety of habitat preferences: Moist open areas in rocky places, wooded streams, marsh edges, shale barrens, abandoned city lots, mountain meadows - practically any (usually moist) sunny area where asters grow.
Adults fly in spring or early summer, from June to mid-July in most regions, but often earlier southward. Perhaps with a partial second brood in early September in some regions. September flights may represent a 2nd brood of a closely related yet distinct species [see "not quite Pearl or Nothern" for more discussion.]
larvae feed on leaves of asters (Aster spp.)
Life Cycle
eggs laid in bunches of about 40 on underside of host plant leaves; young larvae live and feed communally; third-stage larvae overwinter
Can often be separated from Pearl Crescent by flight season: in areas of overlap, Northern Crescent flies only in June-July and perhaps early September, whereas the Pearl Crescent produces two or more broods per year, flying all year in the southern US, April to November in the northern US, and May to late September in Canada.
See Also
Phyciodes batesii - Tawny Crescent
Phyciodes incognitus - Mimic Crescent (recently described species from Southern Appalachians)
Phyciodes tharos - Pearl Crescent
Print References
Scott, J.A. 1994. Biology and Systematics of Phyciodes (Phyciodes). Papilio, New Series 7:1-120.
Internet References
Butterflies and Moths of North America; with notes on description, biology, and distribution
Butterflies of Canada; CBIF with notes on description, biology, and distribution