Polygonia gracilis zephyrus
No photos are currently available
If you have a high quality photo of this species, are confident in the identification, and would like to submit it
for inclusion on the Montana Field Guide, please send it to us using our online photo submission tool.
Treated as a subspecies of
Polygonia gracilis (Hoary Comma) with a broad region of intergradation (Scott 1984, 1986); earlier authors considered it a separate species. See the Hoary Comma entry for the full account. The following is slightly modified from that species account to reflect this subspecies. [From Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001; Pyle 2002) Forewing 2.3-2.7 cm. Uppersurface hindwing lacking black spot in middle of wing, but with yellow submarginal spots in dark band, the spots running together posteriorly to form a band; undersurface gray-brown, outer half distinctly pale, often hoary-white or silver-gray, comma mark on under hindwing abruptly curved in shape of an unbarbed fishhook.
One flight in the north; in August and overwintering until June. Two flights farther south (Colorado, Nevada); late June to early August and late August overwintering until May. Possibly three flights in California (Scott 1986). Mid-March to early October with peaks in May and August in the Oregon and Washington (Pyle 2002; James and Nunnallee 2011); July and August overwintering to May and June in British Columbia (Guppy and Shepard 2001).
Best determined by a combination of uppersurface hindwing lacking black spot in middle of wing, upper hindwing with yellow submarginal spots in dark band and the spots running together posteriorly; undersurface two-toned with outer half paler.
P. g. zephyrus with less two-toned undersurface than P. g. gracilis, yellow submarginal spots enlarged and blended more into median color on hindwing uppersurface than P. g. gracilis (Scott 1984, 1986).
In the mountain west from southern British Columbia and Alberta to southern California, southeastern Arizona and southern New Mexico, east to the Black Hills of South Dakota; strays to Kansas and Nebraska (Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001); 305 m to 2438 m elevation m in Oregon (Warren 2005), to 4270 m elevation in Colorado, but usually below 3000 m (Brown 1957; Scott and Scott 1978; Ferris and Brown 1981). In Montana, reported from every county in the western two-thirds of the state (Kohler 1980; Stanford and Opler 1993). Common (Glassberg 2001).
Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations:
(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version)
Map Help and Descriptions
(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)
Elevational migrant; appears to fly to higher elevations in summer, returning to lower elevations in autumn where it hibernates (Scott 1986; Pyle 2002; James and Nunnallee 2011).
Montane dry and wet meadows, along streams, roads, trails, subalpine conifer forest, riparian woodland, towns, prairie, to above treeline in alpine tundra and on summits (Emmel 1964; Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Guppy and Shepard 2001; Pyle 2002; James and Nunnallee 2011). In Glacier National Park, Montana reported from mesic meadows and high elevation subalpine-alpine ecotones (Debinski 1993).
Larval food plants include
Menziesia, Rhododendron, Ribes (several species), and Ulmus (Scott 1986; Pyle 2002; James and Nunnallee 2011); Alnus and Salix reported in British Columbia for P. g. gracilis (Guppy and Shepard 2001). Adults feed on flower nectar (including Anaphalis, Antennaria, Apocynum, Arctostaphylos, Arnica, Aster, Barbarea, Berberis, Calyptridium, Ceanothus, Centaurea, Chrusothamnus, Cirsium, Erigeron, Erioganum, Erysimum, Geranium, Jamesia, Physocarpus, Potentilla, Prunus, Ribes, Rubus, Rudbeckia, Salix, Sedum, Senecio, Solidago, Taraxacum, Thermopsis, Thlaspi, Wyethia), rotten fruit, sap, aphid honeydew, mud, and dung (Emmel 1964; Scott 2014).
Females lay eggs singly or in groups of 3-4 usually on undersides of host plant leaves. Eggs hatch in 4-5 days (depending on temperature) and develop to pupation in another 25 days, each instar averaging 5 days. Larvae rest on host plant stems or leaves when not feeding, usually on the undersides; do not construct shelters or nests but feed openly. Adults emerge from pupae after about 9 days; overwinter (hibernate) as adults (Scott 1992; James and Nunnallee 2011). Males perch mostly in afternoon on bushes or shrubs, stones, logs in gullies and valley bottoms waiting for females to pass nearby (Scott 1975b, 1986).
Subspecies status still debated; currently treated as a subspecies of
Polygonia gracilis (Hoary Comma) with a broad region of intergradation (Scott 1984, 1986). Steve Kohler recommended treating this subspecies as a full species. P. g. zephyrus and P. g. gracilis are distinguishable morphologically at the extremes of their ranges (zephyrus west; gracilis east), but intermediates exist in between. Genetics, thus far, has not made a clear division between them and they may be merging or diverging (see A09WAH01MTUS).
Literature Cited Above
Legend: 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. Emmel, T.C. 1964. The ecology and distribution of butterflies in a montane community near Florissant, Colorado. American Midland Naturalist 72(2): 358-373. 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. 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. 1984. A review of Polygonia progne (oreas) and P. gracilis (zephyrus) (Nymphalidae), including a new subspecies from the southern Rocky Mountains. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera. 23(3): 197-210. 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. 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. 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 References
Legend: 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. Layberry, R.A., P.W. Hall, and J.D. LaFontaine. 1998. The Butterflies of Canada. University of Toronto Press. 280 pp. + color plates. Additional Sources of Information Related to "Insects"