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Butterfly of the Month

March: Question Mark

Kara Davidson

March’s Butterfly of the Month is Polygonia interrogationis, the Question Mark.

An orange question mark butterfly on a leafy twig.

An orange question mark butterfly on a leafy twig.

Range: They can be found throughout the entire eastern United States, as well as in very northern Mexico, and southern Canada.[1]

How to Attract them to Your Backyard: If you happen to have an Elm tree in your yard, you are off to a good start. We find a combination of elm and false nettle does a great job of attracting question marks for us.

May be confused with: Eastern Comma

Size: ~2”

Season: May through October

Female vs. Male: No easily noticed visual difference.


Life Cycle: The coloration of the caterpillars varies considerably. Some have dark oranges spines, while others can have pale yellow spines. Caterpillars spin pink silk to anchor the chrysalis. The butterflies emerge in the fall and overwinter as adults. They remain mostly inactive (hiding) until the spring. Adults eat animal feces, rotting fruit and sap. [1]

Interesting Facts:

  • Eggs are sometimes laid in vertical stacks (see photo)
  • They either get their name from a position they are commonly found in as caterpillars, or because of a silver mark located on the underside of their hindwing (and how this mark is different from the Eastern Comma)
  • When open, the edge of the wings is outlined in a beautiful, brilliant lavender color
  • When closed, they are camouflaged to look like a dried leaf
  • If disturbed in the chrysalis state, they wiggle like crazy! You don’t even need to touch them, just be near by.

In Our Habitat: Question Marks are easy to spot when the weather is cool, but sunny. They are very active butterflies and not at all shy of people. They can often be found on the plate of fruit. They tend to be sluggish when the weather is hot & humid (who isn’t?). Be careful though, their appearance when closed is very different than when open, they might confuse you.


  1. Burris, Judy, and Wayne Richards. The Life Cycles of Butterflies: From Egg to Maturity, a Visual Guide to 23 Common Garden Butterflies. North Adams, MA: Storey Pub., 2006. Print.