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Comma & Question Mark Butterflies

What better way to celebrate the start of school than learning about flying punctuation marks at MetroParks of Butler County? What are we talking about? The Comma Butterfly "Polygonia c-album" and Question Mark Butterfly "Polygonia interrogationis". The Comma Butterfly is named after the small white “C” shaped marking resembling a comma on the underside of its wings. Can you guess what the Question Mark Butterfly is named after?


comma butterfly image open wings
comma butterfly image folded wings


These butterflies have irregular wing shapes and look like dead leaves when folded. It’s not only the adult stage that has tricks up it’s wing. As the caterpillar grows, it goes through five stages of growth, each stage is called an instar. The larva has a cryptic appearance to avoid detection from predators during the first three. During the fourth instar it develops black, white and orange patterns and spines along its body. The larva have a continuous white marking along their backs to mimic bird droppings until the fifth, final instar. Looking like a bird dropping is a deterrence from being eaten by predators.


question mark image open wings
question mark image folded wings


Where can we find these flying punctuation marks? The larvae can be found munching on nettle plants, elm trees, hackberry trees and hop plants. The adult Question Mark Butterfly can be found soaking up nutrients from rotting fruit, tree sap, animal waste and even carrion. It will go to flowers to drink nectar as a last resort. The adult Comma Butterfly likes nectar from the wildflowers of thistle & knapweed and ripe berries.


punctuation caterpillar image at Chrisholm on hop plant


The second brood will over winter in sheltered areas as adults. This is one of the many reasons why we should “leave the leaves” and a brush pile in our gardens. This provides a safe habitat for many hibernating insects. What kind of leaf or wood pile do you have in your garden? Tag your photos with #PixInMPX or send them to Programs@YourMetroParks.net to share ideas with everyone to improve their garden habitat.