The silvery white dot and curved line on the underside of the hindwing resemble the punctuation mark the Question Mark Butterfly is named after.
The top side (upperside) of the Question Mark is orange and black with mostly black hindwings. Its underside coloration is quite different: dark brown and gray. The Question Mark could look like two separate butterflies if seen with its wings up and then its wings down. The edges of its wings are elegantly curved sculpted with the hindwing tips ending in short tails.
Males perch on branches, surveying their territory and scouting for females. They will chase away intruders like other insects and sometimes small birds. Up until the end of May, Females lay fertilized eggs on leaves that are near a host plant, forcing newly hatched larvae to find their own host plant. Caterpillars feed on the leaves of elm trees, hackberry, nettles and false nettles. Their bodies are a mix of orange, red, black and white speckles depending on maturity. All are covered in fierce looking spikes that branch out with more spikes, resembling the spines of a barrel cactus. These spines and spikes change color as the caterpillar changes color: reddish body with red-orange spikes, black and yellow body with yellow spikes. Adults prefer drinking from rotting fruit, sap, dung and carrion juices, but will settle for flower nectar if these more pungent food sources are not available.
Some adults will migrate south to avoid cold winters, others hibernate in shelters up north. They can be found in cities, parks, suburbs, gardens, and meadows.
Scientific Name: Polygonia interrogationis
Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 52mm to 76mm (2.03in to 2.96in)
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.
Butterfly and Moth Anatomy
Antennae: Butterflies and Moths have a pair of antennae on the head used as sensors.
Head: The head is home to the insect's eyes, antennae, and proboscis.
Thorax: Home to the three pairs of legs as well as vital internal organs.
Abdomen: Contains vital internal organs such as the heart(s) and reproduction facilities.
Forewing: The upper, forward wing pair used for flying.
Hindwing: The lower, rearward wing pair used for flying.
NOTE: Butterflies and Moths are part of the Lepidopteran order as they share many similarities.