Raised wings raise questions about the small white stamp on the underside of the Question Mark Butterfly's wing.
The tops of the wings on the Question Mark are orange and black; hindwings are mostly black. The color underneath the wings 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 sculpted in graceful curves. The hindwing tips have short tails. The white question mark on the underside of the forewings is small and incomplete, but the curve and dot are clear.
Males perch on branches, surveying their territory and scouting for females. They chase away intruders like other butterflies, flying 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 travel to get their first meal. 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 caterpillars are covered in fierce looking spikes that branch out among even more spikes. They resemble the spines of a barrel cactus. These spines and spikes change color as the caterpillar matures and its body changes color: reddish with red-orange spikes, or black and yellow body with yellow spikes. Adults prefer drinking juices from rotting fruit, sap, dung, and carrion, but they 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.