Posts Tagged ‘Eastern Comma’


In April, I wrote about the pruning of my very large hydrangea bush in a post entitled Before and After. What a difference! It seemed that the rambunctious bush had been brought into hand. However, just a few months later, the hydrangea is every bit as large and boisterous as it ever was.


And as always, the bush is a magnet drawing a host of pollinators. Bumblebees are the most numerous visitors. On a sunny day, the hydrangea seems to have a voice of its own, with countless bees at work on its lovely white flower heads setting the bush abuzz.


You’ll find a selection of pollinators portrayed on last year’s post, Pollinator’s Choice. Butterflies love the hydrangea flowers as well. A Question Mark, Viceroy, Northern Crescent and Viceroy were all featured last year in Butterflies Too. To that list, I can add an Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma). It is very similar to the Question Mark. Both are named for the small silvery ‘punctuation marks’ on the under-surface of their hind wings.


The Eastern Comma lacks the dot that gives the Question Mark its name. Here’s a photo of the Question Mark from last year’s post for comparison.

The silhouette of the closed wings also demonstrates the source of a common name for these butterflies: anglewings. Below is a photo of the Eastern Comma with wings spread.


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In spite of my love for daylilies, if I were only to have one type of flower in the garden, I might have to go with the echinaceas, or coneflowers. While the daylilies are beautiful, they can’t beat echinacea when it comes to attracting a host of pollinators, most notably butterflies. Few garden visitors are more welcome.


While to our human eyes the flight of butterflies seems carefree and footloose, butterflies live a perilous life as they seek out food and appropriate host plants on which to lay the eggs that will produce a future generation of butterflies. Echinacea provides a much favored nectar source. Ideally, a garden for butterflies should also contain the host plants that are required by the caterpillars of the species. Host plants used by the Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes), illustrated in the first two photos, include dill, fennel and parsley. I intersperse a bit of each in my perennial garden each year.


By contrast, the host plants used by White Admirals (Limenitis arthemis), below, include a variety of trees including birch, black cherry and chokecherry.


The Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma) uses shade trees such as American elm and plants in the nettle family to feed its caterpillars. In addition to sipping nectar at flowers, the Eastern Comma is also attracted to overripe fruit and sap. Unlike many butterflies, it is the outer view of the wings that most readily allows the identification of this butterfly, which is named for the small white mark on the underside of its hind wing.


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At the corner of the house, there is a large hydrangea bush. Over the past few weeks, it has been putting on a magnificent display, with huge cones of flowers billowing over it. The flowers are much appreciated by a host of pollinators. The large, showy clusters of flowers mean that insects visiting the bush aren’t always conspicuous as they move from bloom to bloom. Rather, as you walk past the apparently-empty bush, you become aware of the hum of many insects at work. When you stop to look, it is clear that the bush is host to a small army of workers. Here are a few of the visitors.


The most conspicuous visitors are butterflies. Pictured above is a Viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus), while below is a rather battered-looking Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma).


A few flies were among the visitors. The individual below may be a Greenbottle (Lucilia sp.).


The striped bottom shown here seems to be that of a Bald-faced Hornet (Dolichovespula maculata).


This yellow-striped bottom is probably that of an Eastern Yellowjacket (Vespula maculifrons).


I was happy to see quite a number of Honey Bees (Apis mellifera).


This fuzzy bee, probably a Common Eastern Bumble Bee (Bombus impatiens) rounds out my roster of visitors. Undoubtedly, many others are also enjoying this bountiful hydrangea.


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