Except for the question mark butterfly, the seven native North American comma species display a white comma mark in the middle of the lower wing. All commas fall into the perching butterfly category. They tend to stay in one spot for lengthy periods of time, making them excellent photographic subjects. The one pictured here is the Hoary Comma Angel Wing Butterfly.
They are quite difficult to tell apart. Field identification, of course, starts with a folded wing view, a defensive mechanism where the folded wings resemble leaves. The comma mark should be readily visible. Species identification proceeds to an examination of the upper wing patterns. Distinguishing among species, especially in the west, where many species share overlapping territory, can be difficult. Recognizing that common species normally show two different forms, a darker summer form, and a lighter winter form, adds an identification challenge.
Dark borders on both the top and bottom wings often serve as the first identification clue. The black spot in the middle of the bottom wing and two additional black spots serve as the second identification clue. The satyr comma inhabits woodland areas from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific coast.
The presence of multiple black spots on both the top and bottom wings along with a light border on the lower wing serves as good field identification clues.
The Angel Wing Butterfly is one of the few Comma species found at lower elevations near the caterpillar host plant, stinging nettle. Adults overwinter in their territory and re-emerge during early spring.
The hoary comma angel wing, pictured here is another primarily western species that can be found all over Vancouver Island.