Posts Tagged ‘comma’

Thorny Caterpillars

Question mark butterflies lay their eggs in hackberry and elm trees.

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I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to spot these caterpillars on the underside of an elm leaf.

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The spines would definitely be a deterrent to predators.

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Question mark butterflies have a silver question mark on the underside of their hindwings. Comma butterflies are similar in appearance and have a comma on the underside of theirs.

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Question mark and comma butterflies both have a summer and a fall form. This is the fall form of the question mark. The picture above of the darker one on the rock shows the summer form

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This shows the question mark on its hindwing.

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This picture shows the fall form of the comma butterfly. I couldn’t one that showed the comma on the underneath side.

Surviving Arctic-like Winters

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The red-spotted purple butterfly overwinters as a 3rd instar caterpillar.

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Will the caterpillars survive the one Arctic blast after another that we’re having this winter?

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I went out this afternoon to check where I knew four red-spotted caterpillars were hibernating.  A predator had chewed into the side of each hibernaculum and gotten every  caterpillar.

Then I remembered the overwintering adult butterflies in our area —

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mourning cloak,

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eastern comma,

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and question mark,

  They spend the winter in places like under loose bark. One cold winter I watched a golden crowned kinglet flitting around in a cedar tree. It came out with a question mark butterfly. I remember hearing and watching it knocking the butterfly on a limb to break its wings off.

Butterflies and moths overwinter in different stages of their metamorphosis — egg, caterpillar, chrysalis/pupa and adult. It will be interesting to see population numbers next summer.

Anyway, I wonder if there is a limit to how cold they can tolerate?