Search Field Guide
Advanced Search
MT Gov Logo
Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Question Mark - Polygonia interrogationis

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: SNR

Agency Status

External Links

General Description
[From Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001] Forewing 2.4-3.5 cm. Large. Uppersurface forewing, margin quite hooked, with "extra" black subapical horizontal bar (in cell M2), hindwing margin often with violet tones, largely black with short tail projections in summer form, orange and black with longer violet-tipped tail projections in winter form; undersurface brown with variable markings, a silver and stylized question mark (or two-part broken comma) on hindwing.

Two flights in the north, mid-June to early August, late August overwintering to May; three (or four) flights in the south, May to June, July, September overwintering to April (Scott 1986). In Colorado, June to early July and late July to late August overwintering to April or May (Scott and Scott 1978).

Diagnostic Characteristics
Best determined by a combination of large size, the "extra" black subapical horizontal bar (in cell M2) on the uppersurface of forewing, undersurface brown with variable markings, a silver and stylized question mark (or two-part broken comma) on hindwing.

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Range Comments
Across extreme southern Canada from southeastern Saskatchewan to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, south in the east throughout the eastern US to the gulf states, in the west through the Dakotas , eastern Colorado, and New Mexico to southeastern Arizona and central Mexico, (Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001); to 1765 m elevation in Colorado (Brown 1957; Scott and Scott 1978). In Montana, not reported prior to 1993 (Kohler 1980; Stanford and Opler 1993); documented at Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Sheridan County in July 2008 (FLMNH Lepidopterists' Society database). Uncommon to common in Texas north to Oklahoma and Colorado, rare to uncommon elsewhere in the west (Glassberg 2001).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 1

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



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

Semi-migratory; small migrations in some regions (Scott 1986).

Riparian woodlands, wooded swamps, city parks, wet woodland openings, orchards (Feris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001). Habitat in Montana not described, but likely similar (prairie wooded wetlands).

Food Habits
Larval food plants include Boehmeria, Celtis, Humulus, Ulmus (several species), and Urtica (Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986, 1992, 2006). Adults feed on flower nectar (including Asclepias, Chrysothamnus, Crataegus, Monarda, Neptia, Silphium, Tilia) but most often on rotting fruit, sap, mud, and carrion (Reed 1958; Scott and Scott 1978; Scott 1986, 2014; Tooker et al. 2002).

Reproductive Characteristics
Females lay eggs singly (sometimes stacked in a pile up to 8 eggs) on the undersides of young host plant leaves. Larvae tend to be solitary but may live with a few other individuals on undersides of leaves, seldom make nests (with leaf edges drawn down if nest built); overwinters (hibernates) as adult (Scott 1979, 1986; Ferris and Brown 1981). Males seemingly territorial, patrol particular areas near trees in open fields while alert for passing females (Hendricks 1974), or perch on tree trunks or leaves to await appearance of females (Scott 1986).

Login Logout
Citation for data on this website:
Question Mark — Polygonia interrogationis.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from