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Nature Notebook – Eastern Comma butterfly

Early spring is a busy time for Mother Nature. Birds are returning from migration, hibernators are waking, sap is running in the trees and butterflies are flying. Wait…butterflies?!!

The Eastern Comma butterfly is one of the few insect species that overwinter in the adult stage. As temperatures warm, the butterfly emerges from its hibernation site under bark and flies about its home forest.

The small (2-inch) bright orange butterfly will feed on leaking tree sap, defend its sunny basking spots from intruders (including birds) and mate. The female will lay her eggs on nettle plants. The generation that hatches from these eggs will look different from their parents. They will be mostly black.

These adults will breed then lay eggs in the fall. The larvae must develop quickly and form the pupa so that the new orange adults will have time to find an overwintering spot.