I snapped this picture on a walk in the Pacific Northwest last week, and, being new to entomology, cannot manage to identify whether this is a moth or a butterfly.

Lepidoptera in PNW

It seems to have the coloring of a moth, yet it was out around 4-5 PM, with the sun still shining brightly. Its antenna look like a butterfly's, but its face (particularly the eyes) seems to be that of a moth. The wings are folded up like a butterfly (in another picture of the lepidoptera), but they look quite drab for a butterfly. Any help?


2 Answers 2


This looks like the Satyr Comma or Polygonia satyrus.

Characteristic of this species is a dark border near the tops of wings, fading near the bottom. They are common across the Western United States and Southern Canada.

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For more information on this species, try this link and this link.

To differentiate between moths and butterflies you can look at the anntenae. Butterflies often have a bulb at the end whereas moth antennae are feathery or saw-edged.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Looks right to me. Nice find! $\endgroup$ Apr 19, 2017 at 12:58
  • $\begingroup$ The hindwing submarginal pale spots of the two photographs show clearly that two species (both in Polygonia) are involved; in the species of the answer, these spots are fused past the tail, the species of the question has two separate spots past the tail (which condition is true for three of the four Pacific Northwest species). $\endgroup$ May 20, 2017 at 1:33

This is an anglewing (genus Polygonia), but the hindwing submarginal spots are more consistent with the Zephyr Anglewing (P. gracilis zephyrus); see http://www.butterfliesofamerica.com/L/t/Polygonia_gracilis_zephyrus_a.htm for several photographs of set specimens and living butterflies. For future reference on photographing this genus: showing the underside is often more useful than the upperside.

  • $\begingroup$ Arthur, I believe you're right. What is the best way for me to change my answer? Should I delete mine and upvote yours or make edits to mine? $\endgroup$
    – hamilthj
    May 23, 2017 at 18:08
  • $\begingroup$ As for my answer, I'm no longer as convinced as I was when I wrote it; I had initially eliminated another species due to its rarity (Polygonia oreas: see butterfliesofamerica.com/L/t/Polygonia_oreas_a.htm for examples, paying closest attention to the first three subspecies shown); reading Pyle's The Butterflies of Cascadia now convinces me that species is an even better match (underside figured on page 315; the main species account on page 319). $\endgroup$ May 25, 2017 at 18:25

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