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Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Eastern Comma

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Image Credit: Gary R. from Burlington, VT
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The small, curved white mark on the hindwing of the Eastern Comma is a feature shared by this whole butterfly family.

Updated: 09/25/2020; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The unusual shape of the wings on the Eastern Comma is also seen in other types of Comma butterflies, which are collectively called 'anglewings'. The curves and points are elegant and, when wings are open flat, form an edge similar to braces {also called curly brackets}. The top sides of the wings are orange with black spots and borders. A similar butterfly, the Question Mark, has an extra black mark near the tip of its forewings that this species lacks. It is a subtle difference so mistaking the two is possible. The hindwings are almost completely black in summer broods. The undersides of the wings have ripples of light and dark brown. The white comma mark sits in the center of each hindwing. A modest tail at the also protrudes from the hindwing. This butterfly is well camouflaged in the woods thanks to its similarity in both color and shape to dried, dead leaves. It can sit on a branch or twig mostly unnoticed if it remains still. It is a fast and unpredictable flier when it decides to move.

Caterpillars for this species feed on the leaves of elm trees, hops, and nettles. Two forms are both covered in pale yellow branching spikes. A dark form has a black body, and a light form is light green with bright orange-red dots on each side. Adult butterflies feed on tree sap and the juices from rotting fruit. Look for them all summer long.

General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon


Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Nymphalidae
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          Genus: Polygonia
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            Species: comma
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Polygonia comma
Other Name(s): Comma, American Comma, Comma Anglewing, Hop Merchant
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 45mm to 64mm (1.77" to 2.51")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown, white
Descriptors: white comma, curve, ruffled edges, flying, big brown, large

Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 45mm (1.8in) and 64mm (2.5in)
Lo: 45mm
Md: 54.5mm
Hi: 64mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Eastern Comma may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Eastern Comma. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.


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