Eastern Comma

Common Name: Eastern Comma.

Scientific Name: Polygonia Comma.

What to look for?  The Eastern Comma is a relatively small, inconspicuous, but gorgeously colored butterfly. However, they are difficult to find. They are known for their stunning visual adaptations that allow them to camouflage themselves in the barks and dry leaves of trees. The dorsal or topside of the forewing and dorsal hindwing are brownish orange with black markings. The underside of the wings are darker and closely resemble a dead leaf. Hence, they are visible with wings open, but camouflaged with wings closed (see two photos to the right). The bottom parts of the secondary wings have a silver to white comma-like mark on each from which they get their name. Another characteristic is the deeply indented outer margin on their forewings.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? Eastern Comma butterflies are present from late Spring through early Fall. You will find them perched on the trees scattered around Carillon Stonegate Pond. Eastern Comma rarely visits flowers, although you may find them on Common Milkweed or Joe Pye Weed.

How big are they? The wingspan of the Eastern Comma averages approximately two inches.

What are their flight patterns? Eastern Comma are often seen flying near trees in deciduous woods and forests. Their flight is fast, erratic and haphazard.

How else do they behave? Eastern Commas are territorial and will fly at any butterflies or other large insects that "invade" their territories.

What’s for dinner? Like all butterflies, Eastern Commas have a different diet during their larval caterpillar phase than they do as winged adults. Adults feed on sap running from trees and fermenting fruit but rarely on flower nectar. Larvae feed primarily on the hop plant (Humulus lupulus), common nettle and American elm.

Where do they take up residence? Eastern Comma butterflies reside in eastern North America with the exception of the Gulf coast. Their preferred habitat is deciduous woodlands, and most often seen along woodland edges and trails.

When and where do they breed and nest? Remember the lifecycle of a butterfly: (1) eggs, (2) larval state as caterpillar, (3) pupa state in chrysalis or cocoon, and (4) butterfly. The lifespan of an adult Eastern Comma is approximately five months. There are two generations per year, with the “summer” brood probably estivating for much of the summer as adults and the “fall-winter” brood overwintering as adults. Eggs are laid on the undersides of leaves. Larvae rest on the undersides of leaves and make nests by silking together the two sides. They hide in the nests during the daytime and feed at night. For the fall brood, many do not eclose from the chrysalis until late September.

Where do they migrate? The Eastern Comma does not migrate. It spends the winter in the chrysalis stage.

What is their conservation status? There is no concern.

Do they make any interesting sounds? No.

Interesting Facts About the Eastern Comma:

  • Lifespan of an adult Eastern Comma is less than 5 months.

  • Adults seek shelter for the winter in tree cavities, under bark or shingles.

  • Unlike most Butterflies, the Eastern Comma rarely visits flowers.

  • In earlier years, farmers growing Hops are said to have used the brilliant metallic markings on the chrysalis of the Eastern Comma (which they found in numbers on their crop) to forecast the season‘s prices: golden markings meant high prices and silver markings suggested lower prices.

For more information on the Eastern Comma and sources of information used in this blog (these are the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit University of Michigan Animal Diversity, University of Florida Featured Creatures, Massachusetts Audubon Society, Wisconsin Butterflies, and Iowa State University Bug Guide.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.

 

Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!