Tawny Crescent (Phyciodes batesii) (Reakirt, 1865)

Diagnosis: Another confusing, small (wingspan: 25 to 38 mm) crescent, this butterfly is usually rustier orange than related species and the black markings on the upper surface are more extensive. A band of orange spots just past the middle of the forewing is paler than other orange areas in both sexes of batesii but only in females of the Northern Crescent (P. cocyta). The hindwing underside is a clearer yellow than in other Phyciodes and the dark hindwing marginal patch is much lighter. The darker females are difficult to separate from similar species. The antennal clubs are black and white, unlike those of cocyta and prairie populations of the Pearl Crescent (P. tharos).

Subspecies: Subspecies batesii occurs in Ontario and Quebec; subspecies lakota occurs from Manitoba westwards.

Range: The Tawny Crescent is found in British Columbia in the Peace River area, where it is considered threatened (Guppy et al., 1994). It is widespread in the Prairie Provinces, occurring north to the Northwest Territories at Fort Smith, Fort Providence and Fort Simpson. It is much more localized in Ontario and Quebec, where it occurs in very dry habitats.

Specimen collection data

Similar Species: The Pearl Crescent (P. tharos) and Northern Crescent (P. cocyta); see Diagnosis above. [compare images]

Early Stages: The mature larvae are pink-tinted brown with broad black stripes. Asters (Aster spp.) are the foodplants.

Abundance: Phyciodes batesii is usually considered an uncommon and very local species in all its range. It appears to occur in colonies more than other crescents, so when a colony is located, individuals can be fairly abundant in a small area.

Flight Season: Usually single-brooded with an occasional second generation, the Tawny Crescent has a fairly restricted flight period. It is on the wing at Ottawa only in June but is found into July and early August in the Prairie Provinces.

Habits: This is mostly a butterfly of dry boreal clearings in Canada with asters in the vicinity. It can be found in damp areas where the rock substrate is close to the surface, so that the vegetation remains sparse and prairie-like.

Remarks: Because of its colonial habits and its similarity to the more common crescents, the Tawny Crescent may easily be overlooked.

© 2002. This material is reproduced with permission from The Butterflies of Canada by Ross A. Layberry, Peter W. Hall, and J. Donald Lafontaine. University of Toronto Press; 1998. Specimen photos courtesy of John T. Fowler.