The family Nymphalidae is the largest butterfly family and includes about 6,000 species
which are further divided up into 12 subfamilies. The common name for the family
is the Brushfoots or Brushfooted Butterflies. This strange name is because the first
pair of legs are significantly reduced, sometimes to mere stubs, and look like little
brushes. Some of the most common and well known species are in this group such as
the Monarch, Red Admiral, Blue Morpho and Painted Lady. Some of the longest lived
butterflies are in this family with some species living over 10 months as adults.
The Brushfoots are distributed worldwide, with the highest diversity found in the
tropics. With this variety, there is also quite a difference in behavior, adult
food choices and habitat preference from species to species.
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Phyciodes tharos belongs to the subfamily Nymphalinae. Its range is throughout much
of the eastern two thirds of North America. It is found in many habitats including
open areas such as pastures, road edges, vacant lots, fields and open pine woods.
The larval food source includes several species of smooth-leaved true asters, Aster
sp. Males patrol open areas for females. Eggs are laid in small batches on underside
of host plant leaves. Caterpillars eat leaves and are gregarious when young. Third
instar caterpillars hibernate.