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.
General Characteristics Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Question Mark Butterfly 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 Question Mark Butterfly. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.