The question mark is one of the most uniquely shaped butterflies you are likely to see in your backyard.
The wingspan of this butterfly ranges from 2 3/8-2 5/8 inches wide. Each of the butterfly’s fore and hind wings displays a deep downward pointing hook. The ragged outer margins of the wings dip inward toward the body. The dorsal surface of the wings is rusty orange and marked with black markings. Meanwhile, the ventral surfaces of the wings are light gray to tan. In summer, the outer edges of the wings are shaded with violet hues. The butterfly is named for the distinctive silvery question mark found on the ventral surface of the hind wing.
Do not waste your time looking for this butterfly visiting your flowers. Although question marks will occasionally nectar at flowers, they much prefer to dine on an odd variety of items including sap, animal dung and rotting fruit. Interestingly, question marks sometimes become intoxicated on the alcohol produces by decaying fruit. When they are in this condition they move above erratically and will even let you touch them.
The best way to attract this butterfly to your yard is to leave rotting fruit beneath your fruit trees and to provide them with caterpillar host plants. Two of their favorite hosts are elm and hackberry.
Early morning, before it gets really hot is an excellent time to go looking for question marks. At that time of the day, question marks can often be located basking in the morning sunshine.
In the afternoon, males spend much of their time displaying for females. When they are engaged in these displays, they will sometimes closely approach anyone walking near them.