Northern Crescent

Phyciodes selenis

The Northern Crescent has been recognized as a separate species from the Pearl Crescent for only a quarter of a century. In all my research about the differences between this species and the Pearl Crescent, there is so much confusion that just when I think I understand the difference between the two, I read another species account and get more confused. Descriptions differ on almost every detail, including antennae, crescents, broods, flight time, and distribution. I believe this is mainly because geographical or brood differences in both species is great for a number of characteristics, and therefore descriptions of the species may not be valid for all geographical regions or times of the year.

To further complicate the distinction, there is still controversy over whether these two butterflies may actually be the same species.

Weekly sightings for Northern Crescent

Identifying characteristics

Above, the species is black along the margins of the wings, with a row of thin submarginal crescents that may or may not be noticeable. The rest of the wing is basically orange with a variety of variable dark markings. In the female hindwing, there is a nearly solid marginal line that breaks up the orange area, while the male is much more open, and is the main field mark for determining this species.

Below, there is a darker area in the margin of the hindwing in the female that usually has a pearl-colored crescent in it, whereas the male has a large dark area without any lighter crescent.

Similar species

All three crescents are very much alike, especially the females. It is best to determine that this species is present by looking at the males. Above, Northern Crescent males are much more open and are easily distinguished from the Tawny Crescent or Pearl Crescents. Below the males have a dark area in the margin of the hindwing that has a darker, not lighter crescent, which may not even be discernible.


Open field, roadsides, and woodland openings.


First brood is in June through early July, with a partial second brood in August.


Can become fairly abundant in areas. Walking trails and roads can often result in large numbers of this species fairly evenly distributed along the trails. I have seen well over a hundred individuals on several occasions.

Recent Northern Crescent Sightings

Date County Reported by
May 31, 2023 Jackson Scott and Ann Swengel
May 30, 2023 Wood Mike Reese
May 30, 2023 Dodge Rory Williams
May 30, 2023 Winnebago D Nussbaum
May 29, 2023 Sauk Scott and Ann Swengel


Map showing sighting locations for Northern Crescent
Map key
Northern CrescentClick to enlarge


Dunbar Barrens SNA, Marinette Co., WI. June 13, 2005.

Northern CrescentClick to enlarge


Dunbar Barrens, Marinette Co., WI. June 13, 2005.

Northern CrescentClick to enlarge

Typical looking male in central wisconsin

West of Wazee Park, Jackson Co., WI. June 18, 2002.

Northern CrescentClick to enlarge


South of Coloma, Waushara Co., WI. June 28, 2002.

Northern CrescentClick to enlarge

Extremely open male, showing lots of orange in the hindwing

South of Coloma, Waushara Co., WI. June 28, 2002.

Northern CrescentClick to enlarge

Plainfield TriCounty School Forest, Waushara Co., WI. June 18, 2003.