Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Flower Hill Farm Butterflies of 2012 ~ Question Mark

The Question Mark, Polygonia interrogationis, seems to bring about many questions in regards to identification, especially in distinguishing these anglewings from their cousins Eastern Commas. I have yet to sight an Eastern Comma but was delighted to capture this Question Mark in the gardens last summer. The dash on the upper wing above a circle is a mark to look for. Thanks go out to Greg, Sue and Joe of the Massachusetts Butterfly Group for helping to identify this butterfly. I had identified it last year for a post here by visiting my favorite butterfly site Massachusetts Butterfly Club, but still had doubts.

These leaf-like members of the Brushfooted family of butterflies are migrants, but some may well hibernate as adults here in Massachusetts. Sleepy butterflies may appear from wood and leafy piles or from behind nooks and crannies within bark in the spring when tree sap begins to flow, for Question Marks prefer sap and rotting fruit to the nectar of flowers. They are comfortable clinging to tree trunks and may even be sighted about carrion.

The author spotted this Question Mark in the north field and since it looks so fresh, believes it may have emerged here from a larva state. This amazing Massachusetts butterfly site mentions that elms, hops, nettles, hackberry and even bittersweet are possible hosts plants. At least there is something positive about the invasive bittersweet . . . that is a constant chore to maintain . . . more to obliterate. I will be looking carefully for Question Mark butterfly eggs in future.

This sighting happened in late August of 2012, which would make it one of a second brood and I am guessing that it may have migrated further south in early September. There is no way of knowing, but if it stayed around here too long the Catbirds most likely would have made a meal of it. Question Marks are on wing here in Massachusetts from as early as April through possibly October. 

I hope to see many Question Marks flying about the gardens and fields this year. The two photos of the open winged Question Marks above were captured May 20, 2012. 

Deciduous forest edges and open fields are a preferred habitat and along with those requirements we also offer many apple trees here at Flower Hill Farm . . . so there is always some rotting fruit to supplement sap and nectar.

A pictorial overview of Butterflies of 2012 so far. These were all firsts for this nearly novice lepidopterist.

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