Communication Channels: tactile ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: pheromones
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
Polygonia comma is not listed as endangered or threatened.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
State of Michigan List: no special status
Since P. comma larvae feed on plants, they are often serious pests of cultivated plants and stored grain or meal. In addition, however, the members of this species have also been known to occasionally feed on various fabrics.
Negative Impacts: crop pest
The adults of this species are quite beautiful and are therefore sought after by collectors. These butterflies also produce silk and often serve as inspiration for art and designs.
Some of the larvae feed on nettles or hop-vine while others feed on elms, willows, or hazels. However, adults feed on rotting fruit, tree sap, and only rarely nectar.
Plant Foods: leaves; wood, bark, or stems; sap or other plant fluids
Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore , Lignivore, Eats sap or other plant foods)
Polygonia comma lives in the eastern half of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains from southeast Canada to central Texas and the Gulf Coast.
Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )
Polygonia comma can be found in deciduous woodlands; woods near rivers, marshes, swamps, and other water sources.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest
Other Habitat Features: riparian
The eggs of P. comma are pale green and the larva can be a variety of color combinations, such as; greenish-white or cream-white, greenish-brown or black with yellow black-tipped spines, or red-brown with a dull pink or black head. The pupa is dark mottled brown (with yellower patches) or brown (with a dark lateral line and greenish streaks) or white (with a little yellow-brown coloring); all with gold or silver spots in the saddle. The actual butterflies of this species are characterized by their small to medium-sized and irregularly notched anglewings, the concave curvature and deeply indented outer margin of the forewing, and the taillike extensions on the hindwing. The dorsal forewing and dorsal hindwing are brownish orange with black markings, while the underside of the wings are darker and closely resemble a dead leaf. Polygonia comma are distinguished from the others in the genus by the small C-shaped silvery spot on the underside of the hind wing.
Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic
Overwintered adults emerge in early spring and lay quickly maturing eggs that produce a "summer" generation of darker-colored adults. The new generation will in turn lay eggs that mature even more quickly to produce the lighter-colored adults. These adults emerge in the fall and, crawling beneath a piece of bark, hibernate to re-emerge as the "spring" adults. In warmer climates it is common for the species to try and squeeze a third, or perhaps even a fourth, generation into the summer cycle. However, not all the offspring of a "spring" female in a bivoltine species develop into "summer" adults. Some will skip the double-hatching cycle entirely and emerge as "spring/fall" adults ready to go into hibernation. On the other hand, if the weather is too cold and there is too little sunshine, a larger proportion of the butterflies will opt for a single hatching. This often occurs in the more northerly latitudes.
During the second summer generation of -commas-, it is important that the caterpillars mature quickly to avoid potential frost and inclement weather. When the eggs are laid on the plants that the caterpillars feed on, they tend to mature more rapidly. Therefore, the female P. comma prefer to lay their eggs on those plants on which the caterpillars feed. The caterpillars on the "preferred" plants usually mature in 21-23 days with a 89-100% survival rate. However, on the "not preferred" plants the caterpillars usually take approximately 31-42 days to mature with only a 0-60% survival rate.
Key Reproductive Features: semelparous ; sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous
This butterfly is seasonally variable. The upperside of the summer form's hindwings are all black, whereas the winter forms hindwings are reddish orange. The underside of both forms is striped with dark and light brown. There is a silvery comma mark in the middle of the hindwing in both forms. Its wingspan is 4.5–6.4 cm (1.8–2.5 in).
The eastern comma may be spotted in woods near rivers, ponds, marshes, swamps, and other water sources.
This butterfly seldom visits flowers, but rather feeds on sap, rotting fruit, salts and minerals from puddling, and dung.
The green eggs are laid singly or in stacks under host plant leaves and stems. The spiny larva varies in color from pale green to yellow to white and to even black. The solitary larva feeds on leaves at night. Older larvae construct daytime leaf shelters by pulling a single leaf together with silk. The chrysalis is brown and covered with spines. Winter-form adults overwinter; some will also migrate south for the winter.
The dark form of comma is frequently confused with the dark form of the question mark (P. interrogationis), but the two can readily be distinguished by the shape of the comma mark on the underside. The pale form is easily confused with the satyr comma (P. satyrus), which usually occurs north and west of the eastern comma's range. They can be distinguished by the upperside color, which is orange brown in the comma and tawny yellowish brown in P. satyrus; by the underside pattern, which tends to be mottled in the comma but appears to be more longitudinally streaked in P. satyrus; and by the row of pale submarginal spots on the hindwing upperside, which tend to be separate and surrounded by dark shading in comma, but are larger and tend to run together into a pale band in P. satyrus.