Butterfly Bucket List: Question Mark Butterfly

This is my first post in a meme I’ve decided to start — Butterfly Bucket List. If you’re interested in finding out what it’s all about just click here or on the menu item at the top of this page! I hope you enjoy this post. If so, please consider joining in this month as well as on the 4th Sunday of each month in the future. (I know today is the 5th Sunday, but I had to start somewhere!)

My post for this month focuses on the Question Mark Butterfly. These odd looking but beautiful butterflies have been showing up in bunches in my garden over the past four or five weeks.

Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis)
Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis)

Question Mark Butterfly — Summer Form

The Question Mark Butterfly has two forms — Summer and Winter. This photo is of the summer form — the form that’s been flitting around in my yard — showing the almost totally black upperside hind wing. In the winter form of the butterfly the same area is almost totally orange. Winter forms begin appearing during the late summer, a product of the eggs laid by the summer form.

Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis)
Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis)

The Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis) receives its name from the whitish ‘question mark’ on the underside of its hind wing. You can see it very clearly in this photo.

Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis)
Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis)

Rotting fruit (they love rotten bananas!), tree sap, bird droppings, animal dung and decaying animal matter are the foods of choice for the Question Mark Butterfly. If none of these are available they will feed on the nectar of such plants as Aster (Aster), Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia). The butterfly above is resting on the blooms of Rocket Larkspur (Delphinium consolida Rocket), either enjoying a meal or just taking a rest!

Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis)
Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis)

Question Mark Butterflies are easy to miss when they’re resting on plants and trees. When their wings are folded they look very much like a brown leaf and can blend into their surroundings. This camouflages them perfectly from predators.

Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis)
Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis)

Sometimes the ‘question mark’ on the underside hind wing is not as pronounced, with the ‘dot’ of the mark being small or even absent. This is evident in the specimen in the photo above.

(CLICK ON ANY PHOTO ABOVE TO ENLARGE)

Caterpillar hosts include American Elm (Ulmus americanus), Red Elm (Ulmus rubra), Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis ), Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata), Japanese Hop (Humulus japonicus), Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica ) and False Nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica).

Thanks for visiting my Butterfly Bucket list post for May 2015. If you’d like to join in on this meme, feel free! Just visit the comment section and provide a link to your post.

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12 thoughts on “Butterfly Bucket List: Question Mark Butterfly

  1. I think these particular butterflies are gorgeous and see a lot of them when our loquat trees bear and fruit begins to fall to the ground. I remember how taken aback I was when I first read their preferred foods list. It seemed such an indelicate menu. But, everybody’s gotta eat! That one in the second shot (with wings closed) might be the best example of the punctuation that earns them their name I’ve seen so far. Well done!

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    • Thanks very much! I’ve enjoyed having these butterflies for a while, but they seem to be thinning out. I see one every once in a while, but not the hoards that were here earlier. I’m hoping the rain didn’t hurt their numbers, but I have a feeling it did.

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  2. I have seen the orange version of this butterfly once in early spring here.

    I look forward to joining in if I can get my butterflies to light. I have seen a few but none long enough to photograph…I have chemical neighbors so it is hard to find many even in my organic garden….but as I find them, I will save the photos for posts in the future…

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    • Please do join in! I know, some butterflies and moths just won’t sit still — sometimes I wonder how they manage to actually feed. Luckily we don’t have any close neighbors who use sprays, for which I’m glad. I wish folks would consider every other alternative there is rather than using chemicals in their yards and gardens. I hope to see a post from you this month!

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  3. Ah. Mystery finally solved. Thank you. I couldn’t ever see why people called these question mark butterflies. Now I know.

    I hope I can join your event when it comes up again. I will have to admit that I am terrible at taking butterfly photos though. *fingers crossed*

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