Thursday, October 08, 2009

Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis)

I was photographing flower flies when this Question Mark butterfly landed at my feet. How could I resist taking a few photos? This butterfly is in Question Mark's winter form. The hindwings are almost totally black on the summer form. According to Butterflies and Moths of North America: Overwintered adults fly and lay eggs in the spring until the end of May. The summer form emerges and flies from May-September, laying eggs that develop into the winter form; these adults appear in late August and spend the winter in various shelters.

A complete set of photos showing inner and outer wings on both summer and winter forms is available on the Massachusetts Butterfly Club site. These photos also show the question mark from which this butterfly's name is derived.

Range: Southern Canada and all of the eastern United States except peninsular Florida, west to the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains, south to southern Arizona and Mexico.

Question Marks overwinter as adults and seek shelter in wood piles and bark crevices. In colder climates many migrate south before overwintering, but some stay in place even as far north as New England.

According to Massachusetts Audubon: Larval host plants include elms, nettles, False Nettle, and hackberry.

Adult Food Sources: While this species has been recorded at milkweeds and asters, like other anglewings the Question Mark prefers to visit sap and rotting fruit, and even carrion or scat. This adaptation seems especially well suited to the late summer- overwintering-early spring brood whose nectar sources, at least in the northern part of its range, may be limited.

More information and photos are also available at BugGuide.



abb said...

Lucky enough to have seen one of those beauties in MO this past summer. Haven't seen one, at least that I remember here in CT.
That settles it! I must move back to MO!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

These gize are gorgeous. There are many around our apple tree. Some are commas too. Difficult for me to tell apart. Beautiful anyway.

Unknown said...

Us bloggers always need a camera handy. Somehow blogging makes us smarter that way. I think its the act of writing a thought as opposed to just thinking it.

Helen said...

Beautiful. I have never seen that kind before. Helen

Q said...

I also have the Question Mark and the Eastern Comma in my backyard. I planted Hops for them as a host plant. The woodpile in back is just for them too. On warm winter days I set out fruit that is over ripe for them.
Wonderful photographs.
Snow is forecasted for my area this weekend....too early I think!

Lana Gramlich said...

They're so lovely!

AphotoAday said...

Well, if that's a question mark, my name is George Lucas... But very colorful creature... Question Mark butterfly -- indeed... (((same filing cabinet as Snipes?)))

laughingwolf said...

what a neat flitter, thx marvin

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Fantastic shot of this BEAUTIFUL butterfly Marvin!! WOW!! Love it!!