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Genus Polygonia - Commas, Question Mark

Question Mark - Polygonia interrogationis Gray Comma - Polygonia progne Eastern Comma Cat - Polygonia comma Scalloped-winged butterfly - Polygonia satyrus - female Unknown butterfly - Polygonia faunus Polygonia faunus or gracillis? - Polygonia gracilis Polygonia- Montreal - Polygonia progne Green Comma (Polygonia faunus)? - Polygonia faunus
Show images of: caterpillars · adults · both
Classification
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
Superfamily Papilionoidea (Butterflies and Skippers)
Family Nymphalidae (Brush-footed Butterflies)
Subfamily Nymphalinae (Crescents, Checkerspots, Anglewings, etc.)
Tribe Nymphalini
Genus Polygonia (Commas, Question Mark)
Other Common Names
Anglewings, though this may include some related genera as well
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Polygonia Hübner, 1819. Type species: Papilio c-aureum Linnaeus
Eugonia Hübner, 1819. Type species: Papilio angelica Stoll [=P. c-aureum]
Comma Rennie, 1832. Type species: Papilio c-album Linnaeus
Grapta W. Kirby, 1837. Type species: Vanessa (Grapta) c-argenteum W. Kirby

Polygonia is often synonymized or treated as a subgenus under the very closely related genus Nymphalis Kluk.
Explanation of Names
From the Greek for "many angles."
Numbers
Most authors recognize nine Nearctic species in the genus Polygonia (two of these restricted to Mexico). Some list more as species, others reduce the number by one.

There are an additional six or seven species found in Eurasia.

North American Polygonia faunis should perhaps be reduced to a synonym (or group of subspecies) under Eurasian Polygonia c-album, but this has never been done.
Identification
Polygonia species are easily recognized by their irregular outer wing outline, pattern above of dark spots on an orange background, and the pattern below that looks rather like tree bark with one prominent white/silver mark (the "comma" mark) in the middle of the lower hind wing. Very similar and closely related are members of the genera Nymphalis and Aglais, and some authors combine all three into one genus. Those two differ in having the inner (hind) margin of the front wings straight, while in Polygonia it is curved. Also, some of the species in those genera have distinctly different patterns, and even if the patterns are similar, the "comma mark" is usually reduced and not particularly prominent.
Similar looking species in other genera do not have the wings so irregular in outline.
Caterpillars are frequently seen, and differ from those of most related genera found in the same areas in North America by having an obvious pair of spines on top of the head, that have prominent side branches. Nymphalis l-album caterpillars are very similar, but the stripe pattern is more distinctly longitudinal, and the head horns a bit smaller. Junonia caterpillars have blue spots (usually) and the head horns are smaller with side branches barely evident. Like other members of the subfamily Nymphalinae, Polygonia caterpillars have a row of spines down the middle of the back. In similar Heliconiinae, and in moths of Saturniidae, there is no such mid-dorsal row. In Biblidinae and some other more tropical Nymphalinae there is a long often clubed pair of spines or "horns" on the head, and these kinds are usually not found in the same regions as Polygonia.
Range
North America and Eurasia
Habitat
Varied, but usually in wooded areas near larval hosts. Some species nectar at flowers, but others do not, or do so only rarely.
Season
Varies with the species and how many broods are produced in one year, but they all overwinter as adults, so adults are consistently present in spring and autumn, and often can be seen flying about on warm days during the winter. In the south there is usually a summer brood (or broods), often colored differently from the overwintering brood. In the north and higher mountains there is generally only one brood.
Food
Varies, but most feed on plants of the families Urticaceae, Grossulariaceae, Salicaceae, and/or Ulmaceae.
See Also