, ?

I’m guessing you might be asking yourself, “What’s up with the title of this blog post?” It must be either a typo or mistake, right? No, it’s another case of acceptable uncertainty.

The following butterfly is either an Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma) or Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis). I can’t tell the difference between these two species unless I see the distinctive punctuation marks that appear on the underside of their wings. In this case, I saw the dorsal side only.

Some naturalists say you can differentiate Eastern Comma and Question Mark by their relative size, but hey, they’re so similar in size I think that field marker is useless unless the two species are side-by-side.

The preceding butterfly was spotted during a photowalk along Deephole Point Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (OBNWR), Prince William County, Virginia USA.

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Michael Powell for identifying the butterfly featured in this post as an Eastern Comma. For details, see Michael’s comment on the post.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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5 Responses to “, ?”

  1. lurker Says:

    Yes, it is a beauty!
    P. comma is my guess. IANAE – I am not an expert.
    If you scroll down to the comparison photos and enlarge, I think the difference in the dorsal spots is clear. YMMV! :o)

  2. Mike Powell Says:

    Check out this posting http://trekohio.com/2013/04/24/butterflies-that-punctuate-the-eastern-comma-and-the-question-mark/ . If the information is correct, the row of three dots on the front wings versus four indicates that it is an Eastern Comma.

    • waltersanford Says:

      By golly, I think you’re right. I checked my photo library — every photo with a confirmed identity of Question Mark butterfly features the pattern of four spots on the front wings. That’s good butterfly knowledge, Michael Powell!

      • Mike Powell Says:

        I had to look it up again this time. I remembered that there was a way to distinguish between the two varieties, but couldn’t remember which one had which number of spots.

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