Gray comma

The Polygonia progne, or gray comma butterfly, overwinters as an adult.  This fact amazes me.  Where must this creature hide to escape the bitter cold on its fragile wings?  This specimen, which spent several minutes on our deck, is part of the brushfoot family, whose two front legs are little fuzzy stumps and not useful for walking.  Most of the members of the brushfoot family use these little legs for “tasting” food.

The gray comma only rarely feeds on flower nectar, preferring tree sap, like other brushfoots.  Look for its caterpillars on gooseberries or azaleas.  When the adult’s wings are up and closed it looks just like a dead leaf, but you can see a small white “comma” on the underside, thus its name.  There are several different types of commas.

Gray commas have two flights a year, so this is probably a new adult.  The first adults emerge in April and May, then lay eggs, which hatch and become the adults of the summer from June through August.  The summer adults lay eggs, which hatch in the fall and hibernate as adults until they emerge the next April or May.

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