|Gray Comma Butterfly – Polygonia progne|
Live adult butterflies photographed at Winfield, Illinois
Family: Nymphalidae (Brush-footed Butterflies)
Butterfly Main | Skippers | Butterfly Index
The commas are some of the most cooperative and "friendly" butterflies I've encountered. They will buzz you and perch on you if you hold still in the sunshine where they are patrolling. If they land on your bare skin, don't be startled if they stick you with their proboscis – it's like being poked gently with a tiny, sharp twig.
Commas are part of an association of butterflies commonly known as "anglewings," which have sharply angled wings. When folded at rest, the undersides resemble dead leaves or pieces of bark. This group includes anglewings, tortoiseshells, commas, question marks, leafwings, snouts and daggerwings.
The Eastern Comma's comma usually has hooks at both ends
Habitat: Look for them in deciduous woods, along trails and on the sunny edges of clearings. They often fly in pairs, rapidly dancing up into the forest canopy. Since the adults overwinter, these are some of the earliest spring butterflies, taking wing at the first few warm days, about mid-March here, near Chicago. They feed primarily on tree sap in the early spring. If you can find wounded trees dripping sap, you'll find both gray and eastern commas as well as mourning cloaks.
Similar species: Question Mark had pronounced tails; other anglewings extremely similar.
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Order Lepidoptera, which contains both butterflies and moths, includes at least 125,000 known species including 12,000 in North America. Butterflies are revered for their brightly colored wings and pleasing association with fair weather and flowers.