Comma or question
Location: Western Kentucky
August 7, 2010 5:32 pm
Again I am having trouble with the book I have. The illistrated book does not show the underside of the wings. The illistrations also do not show the markings on the top of the wings like the ones I am seeing. I have several photos of this type of butterfly. One has a lot less brown on the lower wings. The first one I saw (with almost all orange wings with brown spots) I thought was an eastern comma. After looking on your site, I am thinking now that my butterflies are actually the question mark. Is there anyway to know for sure? (Especially if you don’t happen to see the underside of the wing?) I am going to attach both types. The more orange first then the more recent one that I did get the underside picture of.
Can you help me positively identify this one? The first one was last year in October in Southern Illinois, and the other was July this year in Western Kentucky
Commas and Question Marks can be very difficult to distinguish from one another, and the matter is further complicated by the fact that there are multiple species of Commas. The orange and dark forms are seasonal variations that are typical for both the Question Mark and the Eastern Comma. The fall form is more orange and the summer form has the much darker underwings. We believe both of your butterflies are Eastern Commas. The Question Mark is a larger species, and according to author Jeffrey Glassberg in his book Butterflies Through Binoculars The West, the Question Mark “is the only anglewing with a small black horizontal bar on the subapical FW above.” His book nicely illustrates this, and he does have a book for the Eastern states as well. Neither of your specimens has this small black horizontal bar.