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question mark

question mark (Polygonia interrogationis)
Photos © Mary Kay Rubey

Features and Behaviors

The question mark butterfly has a wingspan of two and one-fourth to three inches. Each hindwing is black and has a short projection from the back edge. The underside of the hindwing has a silver question mark shape on it. The forewing is orange-red with dark markings. There are two seasonal forms, with the one for winter lighter in color than the summer form. The caterpillar is black to yellow with eight silver spots on the back.

The question mark butterfly may be found statewide in Illinois. Its caterpillar eats nettle, false nettle, hackberry, elms and Japanese hops. Two broods are raised each year. This butterfly overwinters as an adult.

Illinois Range


​Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Nymphalida

Illinois Status: common, native