eastern comma

(Polygonia comma)

Conservation Status
eastern comma
Photo by Greg Johnson
  IUCN Red List

not listed

     
  NatureServe

N5 - Secure

S5 - Secure

     
  Minnesota

not listed

     
           
           
           
           
           
           
 
Description
 
 

Eastern comma is a medium-sized angle-wing butterfly. It has a wingspan of 1¾ to 2½. The first generation each year (winter form) is noticeably darker than the second generation (summer form).

The wings are noticeably angled rather than rounded. The outer margins are jagged and fringed in white. The tip (apex) of the forewing is curved backward (hooked). The hindwing is tailed. The tail of the winter form is long, that of the summer form is short. The trailing edge of the hindwing is noticeably ragged.

The upper side of the forewing is reddish-orange with a broad dark margin band. The marginal band of the winter form is orangish-brown, while that of the summer form may be orangish-brown or black. There is a large black spot on the cell-end bar and 5 smaller black spots in the subapical area. The largest of these 5 spots, the one closest to the trailing edge of the wing, often has a pale black spot immediately above it.

The upper side of the hindwing of the winter form is mostly orangish-brown, while that of the summer form is mostly black. There is a submarginal row of reddish-orange spots, and three medial and one postmedial black or orangish-brown spots. One of the medial spots is on the leading edge if the wing and is usually not visible on perched specimens. The postmedial spot is not visible in the black area of the summer form.

On the male, the underside of both wings is irregularly banded with highly contrasted areas of light and dark grayish-brown and yellowish-brown. On females the banding is less prominent and the wings are more evenly colored. In the center of the hindwing there is a curved, silvery, comma-shaped line that is barbed at both ends.

The eyes are brown.

The caterpillar is variable in color and up to 1½ long. Though fierce looking, they are harmless to the touch. The head has 2 short, dark, spiny projections (scoli) and numerous shorter white spines. The head and thorax are often black, sometimes the same color as the abdomen. The abdomen may be greenish-white, greenish-brown, or black. On pale individuals there is a broad, black, subdorsal stripe and black horizontal and oblique stripes on each abdominal segment. There are often red or orange spots above the spiracles. On the thorax and each abdominal segment there is a long, thick, stiff, branched scolus in the middorsal, subdorsal, supraspiracular, spiracular, and subspiracular regions. The scoli are usually yellow or greenish-white with black tips. The base of the leg-like structure (proleg) on each side of the middle abdominal segments is black or green.

Mature caterpillars are found in June (summer form) and August to September (winter form).

 
     
 

Size

 
 

Wingspan: 1¾ to 2½

 
     
 

Similar Species

 
 

Gray comma (Polygonia progne) is heavily striated on the underside of the hindwing and the inner half of the forewing. The comma on the underside of the hindwing is thin and tapered, not barbed, at both ends.

Question mark (Polygonia interrogationis) is usually larger. The forewing apex is more strongly hooked. The trailing edge of the hindwing is more or less straight. The hindwing tail is shorter. The marginal fringe on the summer form is violet, especially on fresh individuals. There is an extra spot on the upper side of the forewing. The curved line on the underside of the hindwing is broken into a line and a dot, resembling a question mark.

 
     
 
Habitat
 
 

Open deciduous woodlands and woodland edges, swamps, marshes, streams; usually near water.

 
     
 
Biology
 
 

Season

 
 

Two broods: early April to mid-May and late June to mid-October.

 
     
 

Behavior

 
 

The caterpillar feeds at night on the underside of a leaf of a host plant. It creates a protective daytime shelter by folding under the sides of the leaf with silk.

 
     
 

Life Cycle

 
 

The females lay green eggs singly or stacked in chains or 8 or more on the underside of leaves or the stem of host plants. Winter form females lay eggs in early spring to the end of May. The larvae molt four times in 21 to 23 days before pupating. Winter form adults do not migrate. They overwinter in cold areas by hibernating in a bark crevice, the siding of a house, or other sheltered place. On warm winter days they may be seen flying.

 
     
 

Larva Hosts

 
 

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica ssp. gracilis), small-spike false nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica), Canadian woodnettle (Laportea canadensis), common hop (Humulus lupulus), and Japanese hop (Humulus japonicus); also elm (Ulmus spp.).

 
     
 

Adult Food

 
 

Tree sap and rotting fruit.

 
     
 
Distribution
 
 

Distribution Map

 

Sources

7, 20, 21, 24, 27, 29, 30, 71.

 
  5/1/2018      
         
 

Occurrence

 
 

Common

 
         
 
Taxonomy
 
 

Order

Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)  
 

Suborder

Glossata  
 

Infraorder

Neolepidoptera  
  Parvorder Heteroneura  
  No Rank Ditrysia  
  No Rank Obtectomera  
 

Superfamily

Papilionoidea (butterflies [excluding skippers])  
 

Family

Nymphalidae (brush-footed butterflies)  
 

Subfamily

Nymphalinae (checkerspots, anglewings, peacocks, and allies)  
 

Tribe

Nymphalini (ladies, anglewings, and allies)  
 

Genus

Polygonia  
       
 

Synonyms

 
 

 

 
       
 

Common Names

 
 

eastern comma

 
       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Proleg

A fleshy structure on the abdomen of some insect larvae that functions as a leg, but lacks the five segments of a true insect leg.

 

Pupa

The life stage of some insects undergoing transformation. In caterpillars, the chrysalis.

 

Scolus

A spiny, branched projection from a larval body wall, the branches terminating with a single stiff, hair-like or bristle-like tip.

 

Spiracle

A small opening on the surface of an insect through which the insect breathes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
Visitor Photos
 
           
 

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Jennifire4

 
    eastern comma      
 

AKStern

 
 

this was by my car when I walked out of the Fridley Home Depot store today.

 
    eastern comma   eastern comma  
 

Robert Briggs

 
  Picture of an Eastern Comma that I took today in Afton State park.... Kind of surprising - it seems awfully late in the year to be finding butterflies flitting around....   eastern comma  
 

Greg Johnson

 
    eastern comma      
 

Tom Baker

 
    eastern comma   eastern comma  
           
    eastern comma   eastern comma  
           
 
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos
 
 

Summer Form

 
    eastern comma   eastern comma  
           
    eastern comma      
           
 

Winter Form

 
    eastern comma   eastern comma  
           
 

Underside

 
    eastern comma      
           

 

Camera

     
 
Slideshows
 
Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma)
Andree Reno Sanborn
  Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma)  
Polygonia comma (Eastern Comma)
Allen Chartier
  Polygonia comma (Eastern Comma)  
Eastern Comma
Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren
  Eastern Comma  
     

 

slideshow

       
 
Visitor Videos
 
       
 

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Other Videos
 
  Eastern Comma Butterfly (Nymphalidae: Polygonia comma) Sunning
Carl Barrentine
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on Sep 11, 2011

Photographed at the Turtle River State Park, North Dakota (11 September 2011).

 
  Eastern Comma (Nymphalidae: Polygonia comma) on Tree
Carl Barrentine
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on May 20, 2011

Photographed at the Turtle River State Park, North Dakota (19 May 2011).

 
       

 

Camcorder

 
 
Visitor Sightings
 
           
 

Report a sighting of this insect.

 
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Simply email us at info@MinnesotaSeasons.com.
Be sure to include a location.
 
  Jennifire4
9/18/2018

Location: West Lakeland Township

eastern comma  
  AKStern
11/3/2016

Location: Fridley, MN

this was by my car when I walked out of the Fridley Home Depot store today.

eastern comma  
  Robert Briggs
10/22/2016

Location: Afton State Park

Picture of an Eastern Comma that I took today in Afton State park.... Kind of surprising - it seems awfully late in the year to be finding butterflies flitting around....

eastern comma  
           
 
MinnesotaSeasons.com Sightings
 
   

 

 

Binoculars


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