New Jersey Butterflies

Eastern Comma

Polygonia comma

Identification: Small—1.9" (slightly smaller than Question Mark [QM]). Wing edges distinctly irregular (often more scalloped than QM), with FW hooked at tip and HW tailed. Above (light form): FW and HW bright orange with many black markings, including a line of 3 round spots on FW (NOT capped by a horizontal dash, as in QM) and a central dark spot on HW. Above (dark form): FW same as light form, but HW mostly blackish, with some orange near the base. Below: FW and HW range from rather plain, light grayish-brown (sometimes with pale violet overtones) to distinctly mottled in shades of dark and light brown. HW with silvery mark in center consisting of a short, curved line ("comma"), lacking the separate dot seen in QM.

NJ Status and Distribution: Resident. Fairly common and widespread throughout.

NJ Range Map-Eastern Comma

Habitat: In and near woods, where it is usually seen on bare ground. Sometimes found nectaring in fields and in gardens, especially near woods, but usually found at sap runs, moist ground, or even carrion and dung. Can be attracted to gardens with overripe fruit.

Flight Period: Two broods. Overwintering adults usually begin flying in February or March producing offspring that emerge in late June and July. These summer-flying butterflies produce a second brood that becomes evident from late August into November, after which they enter hibernation. Extreme dates: North Jersey 2/21—11/27; South Jersey 2/20—12/5.

Larval Food Plants: Nettles (Urtica) and elms (Ulmus).

Overwintering Stage: Adult.

Best Locations: Dirt roads and parking lots near deciduous woods in Delaware Water Gap NRA, Whittingham WMA.

Comments: Not always easy to distinguish from Question Marks as some QMs lack the period under the comma mark. Eastern Comma, Gray Comma, and Question Mark are informally called "anglewings," referring to the irregular wing margins.



Eastern Comma

Dark form, Walpack, Sussex Co., NJ, 6/13/05.


Eastern Comma

Light form, Kittatinny Valley SP, Sussex Co., NJ, 10/3/09.


Eastern Comma

Mottled form, Willowwood Arb., Morris Co., NJ, 6/8/07.


Eastern Comma

Plain form, Kittatinny Valley SP, Sussex Co., NJ, 4/27/04.


Eastern Comma eggs

Stack of eggs on Wood Nettle (Laportea canadensis).


Stinging Nettle

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) and the very similar Tall Nettle (U. procera) are two important host plants for Eastern Comma, Milbert's Tortoiseshell, and Red Admiral.


Wood Nettle

Wood Nettle (Laportea canadensis), a host plant for Eastern Comma.