Archive for the 'Insects, Fish, Frogs' Category

Oct 03 2015

Correcting My Punctuation

Published by under Insects, Fish, Frogs

Question Mark butterfly, topside (photo by Kate St. John)

The butterfly in question, topside (photo by Kate St. John)

Let me begin by saying I am not a butterfly expert.  I can recognize 10 butterflies, yes only 10, and I regularly misname three of those.

On Thursday at Raccoon Creek State Park I saw lots of Comma(*) butterflies so I took some pictures.  Sorting my photos this morning, I looked for this one showing the comma on the underwing.

The Question Mark on the underwing (photo by Kate St. John)

The Question Mark on the underwing (photo by Kate St. John)

Uh oh!  That white mark is not a Comma.  That line has a gap!  This butterfly is a Question Mark and it’s likely the others were, too.

Commas and Question Marks look similar because they’re closely related, but I could have identified them without a photo if I’d learned these field marks:

Comma (Polygonia comma) Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)
Less common Common
Smaller wingspan 1.75″ to 2.5″ Larger wingspan 2.25″ to 3.0″
Forewing Topside: 3 post-median spots Forewing Topside: 4 post-median spots
Hindwing ragged edge Hindwing rather straight edge
Hindwing Underside: Comma is white, large, hooked on one end, continuous, bulging at both ends Hindwing Underside: Question Mark is white, curved, broken in two pieces, one large & one small piece


Here’s an illustration of the Question Mark’s 4 post-median spots, circled in blue with a yellow arrow pointing to dash/spot #4.  Click here to see 3 spots on a Comma.

Question Mark butterfly, topside annotated (photo by Kate St. John)

Question Mark butterfly, highlighting 4 post-median spots (photo by Kate St. John)


Both butterflies are active this month so I’ll get another chance to try my ID skills before they overwinter.

I hope I’ve finally corrected my punctuation.


(photos by Kate St. John)

(*) No, not Commas. Question marks.

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