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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Satyr Comma - Polygonia satyrus

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S5

Agency Status


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General Description
[From Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001; Pyle 2002] Forewing 2.4-3.0 cm. Uppersurface of forewing with 2 black postmedian spots on inner margin, hindwing with pale margin, pale submarginal band, triangular black spot in middle of hindwing; undersurface brown-toned with median line relatively straight and fine dark striations running parallel to body mixed with little black dots.

Three flights in California February to November then overwintering; two flights in Colorado, Nevada, Saskatchewan, late June to early August and September to overwintering; one flight in far north, mostly late July overwintering to June (Scott 1986). June and July (early August in Canada) to October and November and overwintering (Glassberg 2001). Late February to early November with peaks in April and July to September in Oregon and Washington (Pyle 2002); late March to October, April to September in British Columbia (Threatful 1988; Guppy and Shepard 2001).

Diagnostic Characteristics
Best determined from other Polygonia by a combination of uppersurface of forewing with 2 black postmedian spots on inner margin, hindwing with pale margin, pale submarginal band, triangular black spot in middle of hindwing.

Species Range
Montana Range

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Range Comments
Alaska panhandle and southern Yukon east across boreal and southern Canada to northern Great Lakes region, Nova Scotia, and New England, west of the Great Plains south through most of western US to southern California, Arizona and New Mexico (Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001); 1554 m elevation to 3353 m in Colorado (Brown 1957; Scott and Scott 1978), near sea level to 2073 m elevation in Oregon (Warren 2005), 456 m elevation to 1219 m in southeastern British Columbia (Threatful 1988). In Montana, reported from the western 3/4 of the state (Kohler 1980; Stanford and Opler 1993). Mainly rare to uncommon (Glassberg 2001).

Summary of Observations Submitted for Montana
Number of Observations: 19

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Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)


Riparian woodland openings, conifer woodland clearings, along streams, marshes, orchards, fields, parks, wooded prairie ravines (Scott 1986; Threatful 1988; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001; Guppy and Shepard 2001; Pyle 2002). In Glacier national Park, Montana, reported from montane mesic meadows (Debinski 1993).

Food Habits
Larval food plants include Humulus, Salix, and Urtica (Scott 1986, 1992, 2006; Pyle 2002; Warren 2005; James and Nunnallee 2011). Adults feed on flower nectar (including Arctium, Barbarea, Berberis, Chrysothamnus, Cirsium, Crataegus, Physocarpus, Prunus, Taraxacum, Salix, Syringa), tree sap, fruit, dung, and mud (James and Nunnallee 2011; Scott 2014).

Reproductive Characteristics
Females lay eggs singly or in pairs, sometimes in stacks of up to 7 hanging vertically on underside of host plant leaf, sometimes on stem (Scott 1986, 1992, 2006; James and Nunnallee 2011). Eggs hatch in about 5-7 days (depending on temperature), larvae develop rapidly, instars through L5 lasting 3-4 days each, pupation 23 days post oviposition; adults eclose (emerge from pupae) after 8-9 days. L1-L2 instars may be gregarious or solitary, rest in open on underside of leaf, older larvae construct nest on underside of leaf by drawing down edges and fastening them together; overwinter as adults (Scott 1979, 1986; James and Nunnallee 2011). Males territorial, perch on vegetation in sun patches along forest trails and tree-shaded banks, pursue passing females; mating usually occurs in spring where univoltine (Scott 1975b, 1986; James and Nunnallee 2011).

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Brown, F.M. 1957. Colorado Butterflies. Proceedings; Numbers Three through Seven. Denver Museum of Natural History, Denver, Co.
    • Debinski, D. 1993. Butterflies of Glacier National Park, Montana. Occasional Papers of the Museum of Natural History, the University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. No. 159: 1-13.
    • Ferris, C.D. and F.M. Brown (eds). 1981. Butterflies of the Rocky Mountains. Univ. of Oklahoma Press. Norman. 442 pp.
    • Glassberg, J. 2001. Butterflies through Binoculars: A Field Guide to the Butterflies of Western North America. Oxford University Press.
    • Guppy, C.S. and J.H. Shepard. 2001. Butterflies of British Columbia: including western Alberta, southern Yukon, the Alaska Panhandle, Washington, northern Oregon, northern Idaho, northwestern Montana. UBC Press (Vancouver, BC) and Royal British Columbia Museum (Victoria, BC). 414 pp.
    • James, D.G. and D. Nunnallee. 2011. Life histories of Cascadia butterflies. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press. 447 p.
    • Kohler, S. 1980. Checklist of Montana Butterflies (Rhopalocera). Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 34(1): 1-19.
    • Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright. 1999. A field guide to western butterflies. Second edition. Peterson Field Guides. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. 540 pp.
    • Pyle, R.M. 2002. The butterflies of Cascadia: a field guide to all the species of Washington, Oregon, and surrounding territories. Seattle Audubon Society, Seattle, Washington. 420 pp.
    • Scott, J.A. 1975b. Mate-locating behavior of western North American butterflies. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 14:1-40.
    • Scott, J.A. 1979. Hibernal diapause of North American Papilionoidea and Hesperioidea. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 18(3): 171-200.
    • Scott, J.A. 1986. The butterflies of North America: a natural history and field guide. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California.
    • Scott, J.A. 1992. Hostplant records for butterflies and skippers (mostly from Colorado) 1959-1992, with new life histories and notes on oviposition, immatures, and ecology. Papilio new series #6. 185 p.
    • Scott, J.A. 2006. Butterfly hostplant records, 1992-2005, with a treatise on the evolution of Erynnis, and a note on new terminology for mate-locating behavior. Papilio new series #14. 74 p.
    • Scott, J.A. 2014. Lepidoptera of North America 13. Flower visitation by Colorado butterflies (40,615 records) with a review of the literature on pollination of Colorado plants and butterfly attraction (Lepidoptera: Hersperioidea and Papilionoidea). Contributions of the C.P. Gillette Museum of Arthopod Diversity. Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State University. 190 p.
    • Scott, J.A. and G.R. Scott. 1978. Ecology and distribution of the butterflies of southern central Colorado. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 17(2): 73-128.
    • Stanford, R.E. and P.A. Opler. 1993. Atlas of western USA butterflies: including adjacent parts of Canada and Mexico. Unpubl. Report. Denver and Fort Collins, Colorado 275 pp.
    • Threatful, D.L. 1988. A list of the butterflies and skippers of Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks, British Columbia, Canada (Lepidoptera). Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 27(3-4): 213-221.
    • Warren, A.D. 2005. Lepidoptera of North America 6: Butterflies of Oregon, their taxonomy, distribution, and biology. Contributions of the C. P. Gillette Museum of Arthropod Diversity, Colorado State University. Fort Collins, Colorado. 406 pp.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • Allen, T.J., J.P. Brock, and J. Glassberg. 2005. Caterpillars in the field and garden: a field guide to the butterfly caterpillars of North America. Oxford University Press.
    • Brock, J.P. and K. Kaufman. 2003. Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, NY 284 pp.
    • Klassen, P., A.R. Westwood, W.B. Preston, and W.B. McKillop. 1989. The Butterflies of Manitoba. Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
    • Layberry, R.A., P.W. Hall, and J.D. LaFontaine. 1998. The Butterflies of Canada. University of Toronto Press. 280 pp. + color plates.
    • Tooker, J.F., P.F. Reagel, and L.M. Hanks. 2002. Nectar sources of day-flying lepidoptera of central Illinois. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 95(1): 84-96.
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Citation for data on this website:
Satyr Comma — Polygonia satyrus.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from