Green Comma (Polygonia faunus) (W.H. Edwards, 1862)

Diagnosis: The wings of this species have the most irregular edges of any of the Polygonias, particularly in the males. The upperside is very similar to the Eastern Comma (P. comma) but usually darker orange red, and the underside is a mottled grey brown with a submarginal row of green spots on both wings. These can be faded and difficult to see in specimens that have overwintered. Wingspan: 34 to 47 mm.

Subspecies: The nominate subspecies faunus is found throughout eastern Canada, west to Manitoba; it has a brown underside. Subspecies hylas is western, occurring from Saskatchewan to British Columbia; its underside has more grey shading than the eastern subspecies faunus. Specimens from Yukon and the Northwest Territories are similar to subspecies hylas but tend to be smaller. These have been called arcticus but the size is clinal and we include arcticus within subspecies hylas.

Range: The Green Comma is widespread throughout Canada south of the tundra. However, there are few records from the prairie regions of southern Saskatchewan and Alberta or from southwestern Ontario.

Similar Species: Most similar to the Eastern Comma (P. comma), but it can usually be distinguished by the irregular wing margins and the submarginal row of green spots on the underside. [compare images]

Early Stages: The black spiny larva has orange and white markings on the back and wavy orange lateral lines along the body. In Canada, it feeds on the leaves of a variety of woody plants, including birch (Betula spp.), willows (Salix spp.), alders (Alnus spp.), and blueberries (Vaccinium spp.).

Abundance: Usually considered uncommon in most of its range, the Green Comma may be seen less than most other anglewings because it is more restricted to woodlands.

Flight Season: The Green Comma has a single brood in Canada, the adults living up to ten months, with most of this time spent in hibernation. Adults fly mainly from July to September, and again in late April and May.

Habits: This is a butterfly of boreal forests and should be looked for along roadsides and in glades. It likes to sit on rocks or gravel and will chase intruders in its territory. Like other anglewings, it feeds on sap, carrion, and animal dung. The Green Comma is most often encountered in its woodland habitat when it is startled up from a perch. The butterfly usually alights again at or near the same spot.

© 2002. This material is reproduced with permission from The Butterflies of Canada by Ross A. Layberry, Peter W. Hall, and J. Donald Lafontaine. University of Toronto Press; 1998. Specimen photos courtesy of John T. Fowler.