Eastern Comma or Hop Merchant
Identification: Orange with black marks and series of yellowish dots along hind wing edge. A summer form in June and July has hind wings entirely dark. Underside has a silver curved line in center of top wing, called a comma.
Size: 37 to 65 mm wing span. Larva to 4 cm long.
Similar Species: Question Mark P. interrogationis is larger and also has a series of three large dots across mid front wing, plus another smaller dot at outer end. Underside has silver comma with a dot at the end – a sideways question mark.
Gray Comma Polygonia grogne is missing a large black spot about mid-way on outer edge of hind wing. Sometimes hidden if wing aren’t fully spread out.
Habitat: Deciduous forests, prefers being close to water, creeks and swamps.
Food: Adults feed on tree sap in early spring; also rotting fruit like watermelon. Frequently at flowers: Butterfly Bush, New England Aster, Stonecrop Sedum, especially Tall Boneset.
Larva feed on Nettles Urtica, Hop Vine Humulus (exotic), False Nettle Boehmeria cylindrica, Wood Nettle Laportea canadensis, also Elm trees.
Flight Times: March to November, depending on weather.
Females lay eggs in April and May. Eggs pale green, laid singly or stacked 9 deep on underside of leaves and stems. Caterpillars feed at night and hide during the day in leaf shelters and become the summer form adults, with dark hind wings. They lay eggs in June/July, and the new adults are the longest-lived butterflies in south-western Ontario, hibernating over the winter.
Comments: Abundant in Essex County, extending north to Lake Superior.