Phyciodes campestris

Geographic Range

The field crescent butterfly spans the shores of the Arctic Ocean from Canada south to Mexico. This species is most commonly spotted flying at low to middle altitudes in the Rocky Mountains, and in higher mountains of the Northwest United States. Phyciodes campestris occupies central Alaska, the Mackenzie District of the Northwest and Saskatchewan territories in Canada, California, Arizona, New Mexico, as well as the western edge of the Great Plains. (Scott, 1986)


This species lives in flat open areas such as fields, meadows, forest clearings, grassland valleys, and swamps. The field crescent also dwells along canals and streamsides. In the northern part of the geographic range, Phyciodes campestris can be found almost anywhere, from plains to mountains, as well as in taiga -a broad subarctic band where the winters are long and cold. In the far northwestern part of its range, the habitat changes into arctic-alpine meadows, and fell-fields. (Scott, 1986)

Physical Description

The field crescent butterfly is generally quite small with a wingspan of 1 -1.5 inches (2.5-4.5 cm). The wings on the upper side are orange and brown with black margins, spots, and lines, while the underside of the wings reproduce these same spots in paler tints. The under side of the forewing is yellow-brown with a yellow arch at the cell, and the under side of the hindwing is yellow-brown with rusty markings. Of the spots on the underside of the wing, the most characteristic of Phyciodes campestris is the pale crescent situated on the outer margin of the hind wing. This spot is frequently pearly-white or silver colored.

Eggs are a pale-yellow-green, and are always longer than broad, with the surface at the base more or less pitted giving them a thimble-like appearance.

Phyciodes campestris larvae are patterned a darker, blackish brown with black heads. Weak cream dorsal strips and a lighter crescent strip adorn the body and eyes. They have tubercles arranged in regular rows.

The chrysalis, a protective structure during pupation, is a light mottled grey to brown, pendant shaped, and has small bumps along the dorsal region of the abdomen. (Douglas, 1986; Holland, 1907; Scott, 1986)

  • Range wingspan
    2.5 to 4.5 mm
    0.10 to 0.18 in


Males patrol just above the meadows during the day in search for females. After mating,females slowly flutter through the vegetation looking for a place to lay their eggs. (Douglas, 1986; Holland, 1907)

The eggs are a pale-yellow-green, laid singly in large clusters on the underside of host leaves, especially on young plants. (Douglas, 1986; Holland, 1907)

After eggs are layed on a suitable host plant, there is no further parental investment.

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female


In the northern, mountanous portion of their range, Phyciodes campestris flies from June through August. In the lower plains altitudes, flights are from May untill September, and from April through October in lowland California. (Holland, 1907)

Food Habits

Phyciodes campestris larvae feed communally until half grown and then again during winter months. Caterpillars feed on various asters (Aster and Machaeranthera species) throughout their development. As the field crescent matures into an adult, flower nectar -a solution of sugars, water, and occasional amino acids, becomes the primary source of nourishment. (Holland, 1907)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • nectar

Ecosystem Roles

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • pollinates

Conservation Status


Sara Diamond (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Matthew Wund (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Keverly Williams (author), Southwestern University, Stephanie Fabritius (editor), Southwestern University.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


union of egg and spermatozoan


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


an animal that mainly eats nectar from flowers


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


Coniferous or boreal forest, located in a band across northern North America, Europe, and Asia. This terrestrial biome also occurs at high elevations. Long, cold winters and short, wet summers. Few species of trees are present; these are primarily conifers that grow in dense stands with little undergrowth. Some deciduous trees also may be present.


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


Douglas, M. 1986. The Lives of Butterflies. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.

Holland, W. 1907. The Butterfly Book. New York. NY: Doubleday, Page, and Company.

Potter, E. 2004. "Butterflies of the Wet Prairies" (On-line). Accessed March 25, 2005 at

Scott, J. 1986. The Butterflies of North America: A Natural History and Field Guide. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.