The Eastern Comma’s Black Form?

Question Mark Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in the Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, GA

Jeff photographs thousands of butterflies, and every now and again his youthful curiosity is raised. Every so often he sees something, and wants to know why?

This Eastern Commas butterfly was seen at the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat in town, in Eatonton, Georgia. It was spotted with its wings were fully extended, early on a summer morning, while it rested on a flat leaf. I looked, and looked and wondered. Why was this Comma, just now out of its chrysalis, so heavily black on much of its hindwings? Why?

One guess, of mine, is that when it flies amidst summer greenery, the black areas of its wings hide it well, in the reduced light of the deep forest, that forest much darkened by the many leaves of the trees above. The ‘red form’ Commas fly when there are few leaves on trees, and a blackened rump area would only make them more easily spotted by predators.

And what do you think?


They’re Known as Anglewings Because . . .

Comma Butterflys at Raccoon Creek State Park

Long-time visitors can readily picture the smile that exploded on my face when I saw this grouping on Nichol Road in Raccoon Creek State Park. The Anglewings are a loosely related group of butterflies that never fly too far from the tree-line. This is a popular horseback riding trail, and these Comma butterflies are contentedly sipping manure!

You’ve noticed that the edges of their wings are heavily angled. Others are the Mourning cloaks, Milbert’s and Compton tortoiseshells and the Question Mark Butterflies.

Getting back to that smile- this was a A+ opportunity to show two species of commas, in a side-by-side comparison. Good.

The comma on the left is an Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma). The comma in the center remains a mystery. The comma on the right is a Gray Comma (Polygonia progne). See the differences in color, color arrangement, patterns, wing shape, size, and shape of the “comma” that appears on the hindwings. If you return several days after this has been posted, you will be able to click to enlarge the image, and these differences will be easier to view.

We can presume that these 3 individuals are all males. We have recently discussed why males need to bulk up on nutrients (flying furiously here and there to find mates/protect their ‘territory’). This plop of horse scat seems to be just super for these guys. Even more attractive is the scat of carnivores (weasels, coyotes, bobcats, raccoons at times, hawks (?), etc.).

These species much prefer the northern states and Canada. 2014 will hopefully bring me up north, and I can’t wait to share the Anglewings that abound up north from Pittsburgh.


Comma Butterflies Eat the Nutrients from Animal Poop

Comma Butterflys at Raccoon Creek State Park

August and 3 Comma butterflies have settled on a workable arrangement for all to share scat set on the Nichol Road trail at Raccoon Creek State Park.

Preferring to be at woods edge, this section of trail is ideal Comma habitat, with a small stream running just 15 feet from this spot.

The Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma) on the left bears the browns and consistent markings that are pretty reliable. The Comma on the right I identify as a Gray Comma (Polygonia progne). Agreed?

Commas keep you company along certain stretches of trail. They much prefer shade to direct sunlight. Very, very rarely do you see them fly to flowers.

Commas are vividly colored when ‘fresh’ and wear over the weeks that they fly. They are examples of the species of butterflies that like puppies, exude ‘personality.’

Difficult to photograph, as we’ve noted before, our subjects here were so fixed on their purpose that they allowed my belly to the ground slow approach. The things I do for a good shot!


Where is the Marking that Resembles a Comma on this Butterfly?

Gray comma butterfly photographed at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

It’s a HOT! morning at Raccoon Creek State Park. July 2nd and this Eastern Comma butterfly (Polygonia comma) is patiently sipping a cool cocktail of trail moisture and minerals.

Meals feature scat (horses, raccoons, weasels, coyotes), tree sap drips and ripened fruit dropped from trees and shrubs. I can’t recall ever having seen a comma nectaring on flowers?

The ‘Comma’ in Eastern Comma? Examine the photo. Where is the marking that resembles a comma? Yes, you’ve found it.

You’ll find them on sunny morning along trails that are kept moist. Trails near streams and other moving water.

If you are like me and you favor the color brown, they are a treat to see with their waves of browns.

If you love Nature, Eastern Comma Butterflies are a treat because they are different and remind us that there is more diversity out there and we may never know it all.


Why is it called a Comma Butterfly?

Gray comma butterfly photographed at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Sophisticated dots, splashes, chevrons, and oh so much more in this common butterfly of the forest edge. Our state parks, county parks and U.S. refuges and parks all maintain cut paths that meander around forest edges. This is the chosen habitat of this butterfly, the Gray Comma.

A speedster, it another of those butterflies that will allow you to approach within 15 feet and will then fly 20 feet away. When you reappraoch, this routine is repeated. After 2 or 3 more episodes, it’ll fly up into a tree and 5 minutes later it’s back to where it started. Whew!

This one was sunning itself on a leaf at 8:50 A.M., raising its body temperature to the optimum for flight. And its a fast one.

Why has it been named a Comma? Each of the forewings has a whitish mark (below) that reasonably resembles- you guessed it: a comma!

I cannot recall ever having seen one nectaring on a flower. If they don’t drink nectar, how do they get their nutrition?