About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The First Butterfly of Spring!

I was working in the garden over the weekend and was excited to see a two inch orange and black butterfly flutter across the lawn. I looked it up the Butterflies of Michigan Field Guide that we have at the Wild BirdsUnlimited - East Lansing store and narrowed it down to an Eastern Comma or Question Mark butterfly.

Close relatives to each other, both species hibernate and appear on warm sunny days near the end of March. The field guide says that they are often quite wary and difficult to approach closely. Its rapid, erratic flight was also assisted by the high winds and so it disappeared before I could get a good look.

These butterflies seldom visit flowers which is a good thing right now. They actually feed on tree sap, rotting fruit, dung and carrion.

In the spring the males look for females. Once mated the female lays eggs under leaves of plants until the end of May. The young caterpillars hatch and munch on American elms, red elms, hackberry plants, Japanese hops, nettles, and more until its time to shed their skin and form into a chrysalis. After a couple weeks, a butterfly emerges, usually in the morning and afternoon hours.

When the summer adults emerge, they live, mate, and lay more eggs from May-September. Their eggs will develop the winter form of the butterflies that can overwinter to mate once again in the spring.

These punctuation butterflies were named for the white markings on the underside of the hindwings that look something like a question mark and comma.

Source: Butterflies of Michigan by Jaret C. Daniels
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