Hop Pest – Eastern Comma

While out in the hopyard this week, we stumbled upon this little guy and his friends on the underside of some leaves, chowing down on a fine looking row of Cascade.

Eastern comma munching in the hopyard.

While spikey and rather exciting looking with a remarkable set of eyebrows, the Eastern comma (Polygonia comma) is generally perceived as a pest with no economic importance.  However, this might be because the Pacific Northwest, where most of the hops industry takes root, is outside of the Eastern comma’s habitat range.   The ones in our yard seem to munch at quite a clip, it is easy to imagine them multiplying and making a serious dent.  Their populations are knocked back by the pesticides we use for spider mites and leaf hoppers, but we have been practicing the ol’ fail-safe organic pest-control method: whenever we see ’em, we squish ’em.

The eggs are green with ridges and can often be found stacked one on top of another.

Eastern comma eggs (click on image to enlarge)

The body color of the larvae is highly variable, a quick Google Image search will reveal a lot of diversity.

Polygonia comma

The adult butterfly is orange and black, but varies in color depending on the time of the year.  It can be identified by the silvery comma on the middle of the hind wing.

Note silvery comma

In the past, this pest has been dubbed the “Hop Merchant“.  Growers in the early 1900s would base their projections for the year’s prices on the degree of the chrysalis’s golden luster.

University of Florida Extension has a great fact sheet about the Eastern comma, and we encourage you to look through it.

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