Pearl Crescents: A Flirtation Consummated

Animal species instinctively behave in ways that help further the survival of their species. Inevitably, this means spending much of their time eating and reproducing. Recently I had the opportunity to observe such behavior in Pearl Crescent butterflies.

Pearl Crescent sipping nectar from Indian Hemp (Apocynum cannabinum)

Pearl Crescent sipping nectar from Indian Hemp (Apocynum cannabinum)

Pearl Crescents are named for the crescent shaped marking near the center of the submargin of their hind wing. They can often be seen together in groups, nectaring on a variety of flowers, feeding on minerals, and flirting.

Pearl Crescent female (top) with two males hoping to capture her interest; on Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Pearl Crescent female (top) with two males hoping to capture her interest; on Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa).

In the photo below, a male Pearl Crescent is doing some serious courting of a female.  Ignoring him, she sips nectar from Indian Hemp (Apocynum cannabinum) flowers, a species of Dogbane, and  an important nectar source in June and early July.

Do you come here often?

Pearl Crescent male (right in photo) to female (left), “You look lovely in this light! Do you come here often?”

Still in search of food, the female Pearl Crescent flew off to find more nectar, stopping on another Indian Hemp plant.  The male followed closely behind. Still drinking, she turned to let him make his case.

Pearl Crescent male (right in photo) to female (left), "You won't find a finer specimen of Pearl Crescent manhood!" Unimpressed, she continued to drink nectar.

Pearl Crescent male (right in photo) to female (left), “You won’t find a finer specimen of Pearl Crescent manhood!” Unimpressed, she continued to drink nectar.

A few seconds later she flew off again, finally turning toward him with fluttering wings; a sign of rejection, at least for now.

Pearl Crescent female (left) to male (right), "I'm not ready to commit yet!  I'm still shopping around to see if I can do better."

Pearl Crescent female (left) to male (right), “I’m not ready to commit yet! I’m still shopping around to see if I can do better.”

Later, I spotted a female Pearl Crescent with her wings open.  She appeared to be basking. Then I noticed the two other butterflies with her.

Pearl Crescent female mating with one male while another continues to plead his case

Pearl Crescent female mating with one male while another continues to plead his case

She was mating with one male, while another, undeterred, continued to lobby for her favors. She remained steadfast.

Pearl Crescent female, above right, mating with male below her.  Male Pearl Crescent on left, "Hey baby, why don't you drop that loser and fly away with me?!"

Pearl Crescent female, above right, mating with male below her. Male Pearl Crescent on left, “Hey baby, why don’t you drop that loser and fly away with me?!”

The rejected male flew off, remaining close by in case the female changed her mind.

Rejected male to female, "I'll be waiting over here when you come to your senses."

Rejected male to female, “I’ll be waiting over here when you come to your senses.”

But she elected to stay with her original choice.

Mating Pearl Crescent butterflies

Mating Pearl Crescent butterflies

When they are finished, the female Pearl Crescent will seek out the select aster species that her offspring caterpillars will be able to digest. Among the acceptable species are Heath or Awl Aster (Symphyotrichum pilosum), Calico Aster (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum), Panicled Aster (Symphyotrichum lanceolatum), and Smooth Aster (Symphyotrichum laeve).

Pearl Crescent on aster

Pearl Crescent on aster

These bright little butterflies are active from April through November in the northern parts of their range, producing multiple broods.  In the south, they are active year-round.

Pearl Crescents can be found in most of the eastern two-thirds of the US; they are very common in the east.  Their range extends into Canada from southeastern Alberta to southern Ontario, and to the south in northeastern Mexico. Look for them in a meadow or garden near you!

Related Posts

What good is Dogbane?

Romance in the Meadow – Baltimore Checkerspots

Resources

Butterflies and Moths of North America

Cech, Rick; Tudor, Guy. Butterflies of the East Coast. 2005.

 

 

15 thoughts on “Pearl Crescents: A Flirtation Consummated

  1. Mary Anne,
    I can’t believe you captured this whole dance in these photographs. What a catch. Thanks for making my day with this lovely post about my new favorite butterflies! Jess

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