Commas and Question Marks

misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)August 10, 2009

An old butterflying friend of mine in Ohio wanted to send me some question mark eggs or chrysalides, to help me restore the QMs that have practically disappeared since the hurricane. The cats he thought might be QMs turned out to be commas, which suits me fine. I've only seen a comma here once - I suppose it might have been a very small QM - but I'm in the range of commas.

The four chrysalides he sent me were SO little, they looked like miniature question marks. The butterflies emerged right away, and I got this picture of this little comma hanging on a Tupperware container. I cropped it, because the container looks bad, which makes it look much bigger than it was. Anyway, I thought I'd use this opportunity to compare commas and question marks, using some pictures I made several years ago of some QMs I raised.

Here's the comma -

And here's the underside of a question mark, from a spring batch, I think -

And here's the underside of a fall QM -

It looks to me like the comma (butterfly) has a question mark (punctuation mark) on its underside, just like the QM. But the comma was MUCH smaller than the QMs, about half the size.

Maybe I'll get lucky and find comma eggs/cats on my false nettles, hops or elm trees.


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Thanks Sherry. I have been working on identifying these for surveys. Plus I want to obtain some for the house. They do really well in captivity vs. some of the other species. Besides size, I think one of the differences is that QMs have a distinct tail, whereas the commas have more of a bump?

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 11:26AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Yes, QMs have a longer tail as opposed to the comma bump, Elisabeth, but it would be hard to see in the field. Size difference is the most noticeable difference.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 1:03PM
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jrcagle(z7 MD)

The QMs tend to have a purplish sheen; if seen, that's good evidence for QM, but absence is not determinative.


    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 2:43PM
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...especially when half the time the QMs are missing the "." at the bottom of the crescent/comma. I've always thought the Commas were a bit more dull in coloration than QMs. My Oklahoma book distinguishes the Comma from the QM by the Comma's truncated forewing tips.. There is also a black subapical mark on the QM forewing upperside that the Comma apparently does not have.

Lovely photos Miss Sherry, as always.


    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 3:20PM
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Gaaaak, I didn't know they could be missing the "."! Oh boy! Yeeesh, and here I thought I was beginning to get a handle on some of the skippers....

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 6:35PM
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I know; just when I think I've gained some insight! I think they do this simply to keep us humble, LOL!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 7:23PM
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jrcagle(z7 MD)

Susan, my memory is also that the QM has a black mark that the Commas lack -- but when I looked at reference pics here:

some of the pics showed it and some did not, so I took that part out of the post above.

I'll keep looking.


    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 7:59PM
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