Punctuation Butterflies



Punctuation marks are symbols that are used in sentences and phrases to make the meaning.

A group of butterflies bears punctuation marks on their wings and are popularly known as Punctuation Butterflies. They belong to the family Nymphalinae. Also known as Brush footed butterflies, they are found in large numbers in tropical areas of the world.

Two species of butterflies Question marks and Commas are exclusive to this group. Both get their names from the tiny mark that resembles the punctuation marks, Question or Comma on the lower edge of hind wing. Their scientific names are derived from this distinguishing feature. Question marks are called, Polygonia interrogations, and the Commas, Polygonia comma.

Question marks and Commas are identical in their wing structure and color except for their characteristic punctuation mark. Adult question marks are slightly larger than commas. The wings of these butterflies have angular edges and bear leaf like patterns. When the wings are spread out, the color is orange with black spots. The color may vary from bright to pale shades from season to season.

Adult question marks and commas hibernate in groups. Their wings are held vertically as is characteristic of all butterflies, revealing the leaf pattern. They appear, in this position as leaves. This helps to disguise the butterflies from predators.

Food habit of these butterflies is peculiar. Adult question marks feed on sap flows, rotting fruit, dung, mud or even carcasses. They rarely visit flowers to feed on nectar. Commas too have a similar feeding habit, but they do not prefer carcasses or dung.




Both question marks and commas are migrants. In Wisconsin, the Question mark has been found to over winter as an adult. It flies and mates in spring. The summer generation flies from late June through mid July. In August, the second generation appears and flies into October. On the east coast, the Question marks migrate in large numbers, south in the fall and north in the spring.

The question marks and commas live together. But they do not interbreed. Between the question mark and the comma, it is the dot that separates the two!!