North American Butterflies and Moths List

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Butterflies of North America

Butterflies of New Hampshire

Hoary Comma (Polygonia gracilis)
JPG -- species photo

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:

Layberry, R.A., Hall, P.W. & Lafontaine, D.J., 1998.  The Butterflies of 
     Canada.  University of Toronto Press, Toronto, ON.  280 pp. 
Opler, P.A. 1998. A field guide to eastern butterflies, revised format.
     Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston.     
Hoary Comma (Polygonia gracilis)
distribution map
map legend

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