09.27.15: Eastern Comma

Eastern Comma butterfly, Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio. 


Technical information

Oct. 10, 2010,
9:37 a.m.

40°6’50” N,
82°57'30" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 7D

Canon EF 600mm f/4L, Canon 1.4x teleconverter (840mm) 


1/500th second


There are some butterflies that I can easily identify. The monarch definitely fits in that category, as do a variety of swallowtails like the tiger, the spicebush, the black and the zebra.

But then there are some butterflies that send me to Google in search of an accurate identification.

This is one of those “Google butterflies.” It’s an Eastern Comma butterfly, a somewhat small butterfly (wingspan is about two inches) often found close to water — lakes, swamps, rivers, etc. You’ll seldom find an Eastern Comma on a flower. It feeds instead on sap, rotting fruit, salt and minerals from evaporating water and on dung.

The name “comma” links directly to the punctuation mark. On the underside of the hind wing is a white or silver mark that looks like a comma. 

You may be asking why someone named a butterfly after a small mark that resembled punctuation. Simple. There’s another very similar variety of butterfly called the Question Mark that has a white or silver mark on the underside of the hind wing that looks like … you guessed it … a question mark.

Another difference between the Eastern Comma and the Question Mark is the number a spots aligned on top of the wings. The Eastern Comma typically has three spots in a row. The Question Mark typically has four.

So why aren’t the two butterflies named for the number of spots visible on top of the wing instead of for the small mark on the underside of the wing? 

Good question. I don’t know. And I have no clue who decides. I just Google the names.

I found this butterfly resting on a leaf in a wet field near a lake on a sunny fall morning. I was on one of my hikes to photograph birds. The position of this butterfly was perfect for the long lens I was using, so I grabbed the shot. Then I hit Google to figure out what it was.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.