Nature: Butterflies and Moths

Wandering Comma / Polygona Comma (Family Nymphalidae, Brush-footed Butterflies)

What a fooling you may be in for when you try to capture a Comma! Bang! You sweep your net through the air, expecting to capture the butterfly, and instead you are left foolishly staring into your net, while the insect has completely disappeared. Watch carefully for awhile and you will see why this has happened. The Comma, like other Angle-wings, is equipped with a very efficient disappearing act. Besides being a good dodger of nets and bird beaks, it has colors on the undersides of the wings that make it look exactly like the brown bark of certain trees when it folds its wings. By lighting suddenly on one of these trees it quite literally disappears. Only a very sharp eye can see it resting there, the dark underwings merging in perfect camouflage with the dark bark.

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This butterfly belongs to the group of butterflies called “The Angle-wings” which you can recognize almost immediately by the way both fore and hind-wings have jagged angles on their edges. The hind wing has a partial tail, which projects from the middle of the wing instead of from the bottom like in most butterflies with tails. Otherwise butterflies of this group look very much alike and are hard to tell apart until you study them carefully.

Like the caterpillars of the Red Admiral, the Comma’s caterpillars also feed on nettle and the stinging hairs of the plant seem not to bother them at all. The greenish-brown caterpillars are covered with rows of branching spines, each covered with tiny hairs, making them look something like part of the nettle leaf and so discouraging bird enemies. The brown chrysalids are usually hidden on brown twigs in bushes.

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