Eastern Comma

Eastern Comma Polygonia comma

Type of Animal:
Brush-Footed Butterfly

Woodlands, rich deciduous forest, forest openings, early successional areas w/ elm/wood-nettle, openings w/ nettles/hops/elm saplings, brushy roadsides, gardens near woods, gardens w/ overripe fruit, fields, moist ground areas, bare ground areas in/near woods, sap runs, areas w/ dead animals, areas w/ poop, urban parks, swamps, marshes, hop fields

SE & SC Canada & C & E US

Small butterfly, summer form has dark upper hindwings w/ violet edges, winter form has mostly orange hindwings, undersides of both forms brownish color, noticeable silver ‘comma’ on hindwings. Adults resemble dead leaves or tree bark, wing markings resemble bird poop. Caterpillars spiny varying in color from pale green to yellow to white to black.

Adults eat tree sap, fermenting/rotting fruit, poop, & salts/minerals from puddling. Caterpillars eat nettles, elms, hops, willows, & hazels.

Status in Wild:

Breeding in butterfly gardens, zoos, aquariums, & museums

Adults solitary or in small groups (males loosely colonial but territorial). Caterpillars solitary or in very small groups.

Additional Info:

Young: Caterpillar
Group: Flutter

4-14 days

Life Span:
5 weeks-5 months

Body Length/Wingspan:
Male: 1.75 in
Female: 2 in
Caterpillar: 1 in

Main predators are birds.

Eggs hatch after 4-14 days. They hatch into caterpillars, which go through 5 instars (development phases). This stage lasts 3-4 weeks. After 5th instar, they transition to pupal (chrysalis) stage which lasts from 1 week to as long as 4 months (overwintering pupal stage longer). Adult stage lasts 6-30 days.

Males die after mating & females die after laying eggs.

Butterflies & caterpillars are masters of camouflage.

Males perch in sun on foliage/tree trunks to await females.

Males guard small patches & will even drive away small birds.

Adults are diurnal while caterpillars are nocturnal.

Eggs laid singly or in stacks under host plant leaves/stems.

Older caterpillars make daytime shelters by pulling leaf edges together with silk.

Some winter form adult butterflies migrate. 

2 generations born each year.

Fun Fact(s):
Caterpillars can sometimes cause damage to hops plants.

These butterflies attracted to animal poop due to nutrients.

Also called Hop Merchant due to love of hop leaves & comma anglewing.

Also get hop merchant name due to farmers predicting future hops prices based on variation in silver/gold spots on pupae.

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