Gray Comma Polygonia progne (Cramer, 1775)  

Status:

Gray Comma (Polygonia progne) is a beautiful anglewing species of deciduous woodland habitats in eastern North America. This butterfly is very similar to the more numerous Eastern Comma, and care should be taken to distinguish the two. Like Eastern Commas, this species prefers rotting fruit and sap to flowers, and the species is seldom seen on blossoms. This species is double-brooded, and the summer individuals are somewhat darker above (Butterflies of Maryland: A Biological Summary and Checklist by Lynn Davidson & Richard Smith; Allen, 1997).

Description:

Gray Comma is most easily confused with relatives in the genus Polygonia. The larger Question Mark (Pologonia interrogationis) generally has more strongly-hooked forewings, a longer tail on the hindwing, and four subapical spots on the forewing, while commas have just three spots here. The very similar Eastern Comma can be difficult to tell from Gray Comma, but can be discerned by noting certain combinations of characters. On the upperside, Gray Comma is very similar to Eastern, but usually has a darker hindwing (note that summer form Eastern can have similarly dark hindwings). On the underside, under close scrutiny, Gray Comma has a very distinctive, beautifully striated effect,and tends towards colder gray, often bicolored coloration, while Eastern is usually warmer shades of brown, and usually lacks strong striping. The silvery comma marking on Eastern is usually thick, and with strong hooks on both ends, while the marking is normally thin and shallow, with tapered ends on Gray (Glassberg, 1999).

Where to find:

Rich deciduous forests. It often likes to land on dirt roads or puddle at wet mud.

Relationships:

Gray Comma preferentially uses gooseberries (Ribes spp.), and apparently prefers Appalachian Gooseberry (Ribes rotundifolium) in West Virginia. The species reportedly occasionally uses elms as well (Allen, 1997). Gray Comma may have once been more common, having spread over the mid-Atlantic with the cultivation of European Gooseberry and other Ribes species. However, with the rise of rust on white pine (for which Ribes is an interstitial host), Ribes was systematically exterminated in much of the native range of white pine to prevent transmission. (R. Borchelt, pers. comm.)

There are 11 records in the project database.

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A Gray Comma in Garrett Co., Maryland (7/10/2012). Photo by Rick Cheicante. (MBP list)

A Gray Comma in Garrett Co., Maryland (6/29/2015). Photo by Jim Stasz. (MBP list)

A Gray Comma in Garrett Co., Maryland (7/4/2013). Photo by Annette Allor. (MBP list)

A Gray Comma in Garrett Co., Maryland (7/10/2012). Photo by Rick Cheicante. (MBP list)

A Gray Comma in Baltimore Co., Maryland (3/31/2014). Photo by Frode Jacobsen. (MBP list)

A Gray Comma in Garrett Co., Maryland (7/19/2003). Photo by Jim Stasz. (MBP list)

A Gray Comma in Garrett Co., Maryland (7/19/2003). Photo by Jim Stasz. (MBP list)


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