Butterflies of Mexico, USA & Canada
Question mark
Polygonia interrogationalis  FABRICIUS, 1798
subfamily - NYMPHALINAE
Polygonia interrogationis, Williamsburg, Massachusetts, USA  Frank Model
The genus Polygonia comprises 17 species, found variously in North America, Europe, temperate Asia and north Africa. There are 9 species found in North America.
As a genus the butterflies are instantly recognisable by their characteristic ragged wing shape. Most species have a similar upperside pattern of dark brown spots on a golden-orange ground colour. On the undersides they are cryptically marked to resemble dead leaves or tree bark, and have a white or silvery mark in the centre of the hindwing - in interrogationis this mark is shaped like a question mark, hence the popular name.
Polygonia interrogationalis is distributed from southern Canada, through the central and eastern states of the USA to central Mexico. It also occurs as a rare migrant in Cuba.
This species is found in subtropical and temperate open deciduous woodlands, at altitudes between sea level and about 1000m.
The pale green vertically ribbed eggs are laid either singly or in loose piles of up to half a dozen, on the underside of leaves of the larval foodplants. The caterpillars feed on Ulmus and Celtis ( trees- Ulmaceae ), Humulus ( vines - Moraceae ), and on stinging nettles Urtica ( Urticaceae ). When fully grown they are black, covered in white dots. They have thin yellow lines along the back, wavy orange lines along the sides, and are adorned with multi-branched orange spines on the back and sides. They live solitarily and feed diurnally.
Adult behaviour
Males perch, with wings either open or closed, on the foliage of trees and bushes to await passing females. They often imbibe mineralised moisture from damp soil, dung or carrion. Females are seen less often, usually when nectaring, and tend to prefer the flowers of trees and shrubs to those of herbaceous plants.


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