Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos). Boca Raton, FL, October 30, 2015.

Early morning lepidoptera

Was out early last Sunday mowing (with a reel mower, no motors) the lawn (all volunteer plants, not watered except by the rain) and watching the boy play in the sandbox when I noticed this striking little butterfly on our good old Florida native scorpion’s-tail (Heliotropium angiospermum, which is a wonderful little plant that I need to write up soon):

The butterfly’s name is Phyciodes tharos, Pearl Crescent. Taxonomists have decided that butterflies like this belong to the family Nymphalidae, subfamily Nymphalinae. That means it’s a “true” brush-footed butterfly. What’s a “brushfoot”? That means unlike most insects, with six fully functional legs, their forelegs are greatly reduced: they’re just brushes, not legs.

Here is a picture of the underwing:

You can see from this shot that there are four, not six, legs on the undercarriage. Look more closely at either picture (upperwing or underwing) and you’ll probably spot lots and lots of crescent-shaped markings; they (actually, a specific series of them) are what give this group of butterflies the common name “crescents”:

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos), underwing detail.

From the underwing to the upperwing, crescent markings abound:

Phyciodes tharos hindwing detail (upperwing).

Here’s another crescent on the forewing topside, in nearly the same location as the one on the hindwing underneath:

Pearl crescent forewing detail. Boca Raton, FL, July 17, 2011.

Can you guess which of these groups of crescent-shaped markings gives the group its name?