Hoary Comma (Polygonia gracilis [Grote & Robinson])
Wing span: 1 1/2 - 2 1/4 inches (3.9 - 5.7 cm).
Identification: Upperside is dark red-orange, borders darker; hindwing with yellow submarginal spots. Underside is gray-brown; outer half much lighter, frosted white or silver-gray. Silver spot at center of hindwing is fishhook-shaped.
Life history: In the afternoons, males perch on plants in valley bottoms to seek females. Eggs are laid on petioles and undersides of host plant leaves. Caterpillars eat leaves and rest underneath. Adults hibernate.
Flight: Overwintered adults emerge and lay eggs in the spring until June; the new generation appears in July and flies until September, then hibernates.
Caterpillar hosts: Currants and gooseberries (Ribes), western azalea (Rhododendron occidentale), and mock azalea (Menziesia glabella).
Adult food: Sap and nectar from flowers of sweet everlasting (Gnaphalium) among others.
Habitat: From foothills to treeline: forest openings and edges, woodland streamsides, brushlands.
Range: Boreal North America south of the tundra. Central Alaska south to central California and northern New Mexico; east across southern Canada and the Great Lakes region to New England and the Maritimes.
Conservation: Not usually required.
The Nature Conservancy Global Rank: G5 - Demonstrably secure globally, though it may be quite rare in parts of its range, especially at the periphery.
Management needs: None reported.
Note:The Zephyr, subspecies zephyrus, was previously treated as a separate subspecies.
Opler, P. A. and G. O. Krizek. 1984. Butterflies east of the Great Plains. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 294 pages, 54 color plates. Opler, P. A. and V. Malikul. 1992. A field guide to eastern butterflies. Peterson field guide #4. Houghton-Mifflin Co., Boston. 396 pages, 48 color plates. Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, Stanford, Calif. 583 pages, 64 color plates. Tilden, J. W. 1986. A field guide to western butterflies. Houghton-Mifflin Co., Boston, Mass. 370 pages, 23 color plates.
Author: Jane M. Struttmann
State and Regional References:
Brown, J.W., Real, H.G., and D.K. Faulkner. 1992. Butterflies of Baja California. Lepidoptera Research Foundation, Beverly Hills, Calif. Comstock, J.A. 1927. Butterflies of California. Privately published, Los Angeles, Calif. [Facsimile available from Entomological Reprint Specialists, Los Angeles, Calif.] Dameron, W. 1997. Searching for butterflies in southern California. Flutterby Press, Los Angeles, Calif. Emmel, T.C. Editor. 1998. Systematics of western North American butterflies. Mariposa Press, Gainesville, Florida. Emmel, T. C. and J. F. Emmel. 1973. The Butterflies of Southern California. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Science Series No. 26. Garth, J.S. and J.W. Tilden. 1986. California Butterflies. California Natural History Guide 51. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles. Langston, R.L. 1981. The Rhopalocera of Santa Cruz Island, California. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 18: 24-35. Miller, Scott E. 1985. Butterflies of the Califorenia Channel Islands. Journal of the Research on the Lepidoptera 23: 282-296. Opler, Paul A. 1999. Peterson Field Guide to Western Butterflies, revised edition. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Mass. Orsak, L.J. 1977. The Butterflies of Orange County, California. Museum of Systematic Biology, University of california, Irvine. Stanford, R.E. and P.A. Opler. 1993. Atlas of Western USA Butterflies. Privately published, Denver, Colo. Steiner, J. 1990. Bay Area Butterflies: The Distribution and Natural History of San Francisco Region Rhopalocera. Hayward, Calif.: Hayward State University, Masters Thesis. Tilden, J.W. and A.C. Smith. 1986. A Field Guide to Western Butterflies. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Mass. Tilden, J.W. 1965. Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay Region. California Natural History Guide 12. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles.