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Satyr Comma
Polygonia satyrus (W.H. Edwards, 1869)

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Diagnosis: The upperside of the wings varies from tawny to a golden colour. There is a light border on the hindwings and a double dark spot at the lower edge on the forewings. The underside is streaked light and dark brown, with a rather straight margin between the inner and outer parts of the wings. Also, the dark streaks near the leading edge of the forewings are lozenge-shaped. The silver comma is clubbed at both ends and bent over at the top. Wingspan: 39 to 54 mm.

Subspecies: This species shows less geographical and seasonal variation than other anglewings. No subspecies are currently recognized in Canada.

Range: This is mainly a western North American species, with its range extending into eastern Canada in the Boreal Zone to western Newfoundland. It has been widely reported in the Maritimes, except from Prince Edward Island. The range extends in a band through Quebec and Ontario, north to James Bay. In the west, it is found through all four provinces, and from Fort Smith, Fort Simpson, and Fort Rae, Northwest Territories, and Klotassin River in Yukon.

Similar Species: It is often confused with the Eastern Comma. [compare images]

Early Stages: The larva has greenish-white lines along the body with chevron marks on the back. The branched spines are black on the back and white on the sides. In Canada, the Satyr Comma appears to have been reared only on Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica), but undoubtedly uses other nettles as well.

Abundance: Considered locally common in western Canada, it becomes less common from Manitoba eastward, becoming quite sporadic in appearance in the eastern provinces. Several authors (Ferguson, 1954; Klassen, et al. 1989) mention that it appears to be less common now than it was earlier in the century.

Satyr Comma (Polygonia satyrus). Turtle Lake, Sask. J.D. Lafontaine

Flight Season: Polygonia satyrus can be seen on the wing anytime from early April to late October, particularly in the west; it is seen most frequently in late summer or early fall in the east. Individuals are long lived, with only one generation per year.

Habits: In western Canada, it should be looked for in clearings in wooded areas with streams nearby where Stinging Nettle can be found. In the east it is a species of the Boreal Zone, generally occurring north of habitats where the Eastern Comma occurs.

Remarks: In September 1990, hundreds of Polygonia were seen by PWH at wet spots on the ground in a campground in Glacier National Park, British Columbia. Specimens observed closely were fresh and mostly of this species, although at least one Green Comma (P. faunus) was sighted. It appears to have been an unusual mass emergence.

© 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.

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