Question Mark Butterfly

From Ohio History Central
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Question mark butterflies (Polygonia interrogationis) get their name from their wings. The forewings of question mark butterflies are hooked. The upperside of the 2.25 -3 inch wings are red-orange with black spots. The color of the top of the hindwing changes depending on the time of year. In the summer, it is mostly black with a short tail, the winter form has a lot of orange and a longer, violet-tipped tail. The underside is light brown; the hindwings have a pearly-white question mark in the center, giving the butterfly its name.

Found throughout Ohio primarily in wooded area that have open spaces, such as city parks, suburbs, and fencerows, adult males will sit during the afternoon hours on tree trunks or leaves waiting for females. They will, however, leave their perches to chase other insects and even birds. Females will lay eggs alone, or stacked, on the leaves of plants. These are not always the caterpillar's host plants. When the caterpillars appear, they must find a host plant to feed on. Caterpillar host plants include American and red elms; hackberry; hops; and nettles. Upon maturity, adult question mark butterflies will feed on rotting fruit, tree sap, carrion, and animal waste. Only if these are unavailable do they feed on milkweed and asters.

Some adults will stay in the northern United States to hibernate, while others will migrate south.

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