Question Mark

Polygonia interrogationis

question mark side 2010 was a good year for all of the commas (or anglewing or playfully described as a punctuation butterfly) in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. Many sightings were reported to Wisconsin Butterflies over the season.

One of the anglewing butterflies, the Question Mark is usually easier to identify than other punctuation butterflies. The underwing view of this butterfly shows its namesake, the question mark prominent on its hindwing.

Based on Wisconsin sighting reports, it does not appear that these butterflies winter over in Wisconsin, as noted in other regions of the US. This is based on sighting reports to Wisconsin Butterflies noting the dates of first appearance are typically much later than for known hibernating butterflies. No definitive information on burnett county (caterpillar/pupa) has been found that I am aware of.

question mark top On the East Coast, the Question Mark is migratory, with annual migrations being quite spectacular. In an email discussion with Mike Reese from Wisconsin Butterflies, it has been noted by some observers that a Wisconsin Question Mark migration may occur, but not in the high numbers seen on the east coast. This is an aspect of Wisconsin butterflies that needs more study.

Photo on the left taken by K. Java.

Wing span: 2 1/4 - 3 inches (5.7 - 7.6 cm).

Caterpillar hosts: American elm (Ulmus americanus), red elm (Ulmus rubra), hackberry (Celtis), Japanese hop (Humulus japonicus), nettles (Urtica), and false nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica).
question mark

Identification Tips

From the top view, the Question mark is similar to the other commas found on Crex Meadows at first sight. Look for more than 3 dark spots on the forewing, top view along the outside edge.
    - More than three dots in a line on the top forewing.
    - Forewing dots will often run both ways on forewing, along the body and again on the outer edge of the forewing.
    - The end dot towards the wing tip is often bar or triangle shaped.
    - The underwing mark is this butterflies namesake and is described as a question mark.
The underside view of the Question Mark is unique and should not be confused with any other commas/polygonia in Wisconsin.

The Comma/Polygonia butterflies in Wisconsin are very similar and can be challenging to identify at times. Upper and lower wing shots of the same butterfly are very helpful. For Wisconsin, the most common is the Eastern Comma, followed by the Question mark. The Gray comma is the 3rd most common.

Sightings Chart

Colored squares along the x-axis indicate weeks none of this species were seen. Example May 1 - 25 show several visits over the years with no sightings of the Question Mark.
Chart Accuracy Self Rating: Moderate. Estimate 75% of Question Mark sightings identified. Numbers displayed are 100% correct, however there are potential Question Mark sightings that could not be verified via photo.

The Question Mark butterfly seems to be less common on Crex Meadows than other areas. On travels home through Burnett County and Polk County along the river road, I see many more locations with the Question Mark butterfly.

The large numbers of Question Mark seen in 2012 on three consecutive visits probably represents the migration of these Question Marks. 2012 proved to be an outstanding year for butterflies across wisonsin and likely represents an anomaly in this species occurance on Crex Meadows.


TaxonomyQuestion Mark-Polygonia interrogationis   
Kingdom: Animalia Animals
Phylum: Arthropoda Arthropods
Superclass: Hexapoda Hexapods
Class: Insecta Insects
Subclass: Pterygota Winged Insects
    Order: Lepidoptera Butterflies and Moths
      Superfamily:  Papilionoidea
          Family:   Nymphalidae    Brushfooted
            Subfamily:    Nymphalinae     Anglewing
                   Genus:       Polygonia
                      Specie:           interrogationis