The warm autumn light filters down through the contact changing leaves as my big blue truck ebbs its way into the little round about. This was a homestead more than 50 years ago but today it’s a maintenance shed in the park. I hadn’t been there in thirty years though I had passed by it on a regular basis. Today however, I was drawn by a wondering if there was anything left of the former structure. There wasn’t, just a shed for the crews that maintain the park and campground. But my instincts bid me to linger just a little. I stopped the truck and rolled the windows down to listen for birds that might be just out of sight. As my eyes swept through the bushes and trees a dead leaf dropped from a branch and burst forth in a blaze of orange. She landed on the side of a tree as if drawn by a magnet. The body was the color and texture of moss and her fiery wings bore the hue of a turning leaf. And yet a mere moment earlier she was mottled and gray and perfectly camouflaged as a dead leaf. Had I noticed in time to focus in on the underside of the wing I may have been able to see the silvery spots that form a question mark. These are the markings that give the Question Mark Butterfly it’s name. In true “lady of mystery” fashion she flattened her wings and held them tightly against the bark.
Can we peer into the mystery and find answers to her question? The answer is yes. Yes we can. As it turns out her display of color and even her position on the tree was not for my benefit.
First, there are two types of Butterfly with almost identical markings. The Question Mark Butterfly and the Comma Butterfly. But with the punctuation mark under the wing and against the tree how do we know which one we have? Both butterflies have 3 dots near the edge of the forewing but only the Question Mark Butterfly has the fourth elongated mark on the outside. The Comma Butterfly also lacks the dot of a question mark on the silvery spots underneath.
The odd position she landed on the tree wasn’t by chance. The female Question Mark Butterfly displays herself in this inverted position in order to attract a mate. And unlike other butterflies she does not lay her eggs directly onto a host plant. Her children will have to go look for their own food as soon as they hatch. Fortunately for the Question Mark Butterfly children their diets are not as limited as other butterflies and they have a few more options on menu.
Image Titled “Question Mark Butterfly 92920b” and is available for purchase by clicking the thumbnail and reaching out to me on the contact page.
After a few minutes of of trying to get just the right photos I did decide to back off and allow her to continue trying to get her boyfriend’s attention. Three is a crowd and I want more butterflies in this park next year.
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