Eastern Comma Butterfly At Rosetta McClain Gardens
Late this summer, Bob and I popped down to Rosetta McClain Gardens in Toronto to see if we could discover any birds of note but also to look for Monarch Butterflies given the few that we had seen in our own garden over the summer. What we found was an Eastern Comma Butterfly on one of the Butterfly Bushes.
Our first ever sighting of an Eastern Comma Butterfly had been at Tommy Thompson Park in early summer, so we were quite excited to come across another one in the same year.
It was a warm sunny day so you would expect there to be more varieties of butterflies at the flowers, but other than a couple of Monarchs and pair of Red Admiral Butterflies in the vicinity, the well-tended gardens were not buzzing with insect life as we have seen in the past.
There may be a good explanation for the lack of other butterfly species. An Eastern Comma Butterfly is prone to defend a sunny patch that it deems to be its territory by flying at other butterflies that come around.
Being in no hurry to leave the quiet solitude of the Rose Garden, Bob and I took our time trying to capture photos of the Eastern Comma Butterfly as it dipped its long proboscis into the tiny fluted flowers. The butterfly methodically moved from one to the next along the long pendulous compound flowerhead.
The proboscis is like a thin straw that the butterfly unfolds and dips into a flower allowing the nectar to be sipped out. Eastern Comma Butterflies usually feed on rotting fruit or sap, and they acquire salts and minerals from damp soil or animal droppings. These butterflies rarely visit flowers, so we were lucky to observe this behaviour.
Eastern Comma Butterflies have two broods a year, and the appearance of the dorsal surface of the hindwings appears differently with each brood. What we are looking at is a summer form with hindwings that are almost entirely black. It would have been on the wing since sometime in June. A female Eastern Comma summer form will in turn lay eggs that hatch sometime in August.
An interesting fact that I learned about Eastern Comma Butterflies is that they were once given the name Hop Merchant. One of the host plants of the larvae is hops, and when detected on the hops, farmers would later take note of the markings on the pupae to predict the season’s price for the hops.
Farmers hoped to see gold metallic markings for that meant a higher price would be given for the hops than if the markings were silver. Whether this belief ever held true, I cannot say, but the good thing is that Eastern Comma Butterflies pose no threat to the efficacy of a hop crop, so the butterflies were not perceived as a pest.
Bob and I were probably more of a pest to this particular butterfly because we followed it around the Butterfly Bush trying for shots that didn’t involve some part of the butterfly’s body being in shadow. That was no easy task as a light breeze had the flowerheads bobbing continually. That sure didn’t deter the butterfly from feeding on the nectar.