Scientific name: Polygonia c-album
The ragged wing edges of the Comma are just one of the distinguishing features of this fascinating butterfly.
The undersides of its wings are a mottled brown, resembling a dead leaf and have a white mark shaped like a comma. Along with the scalloped edges and cryptic orange and brown colouring, this butterfly is perfectly camouflaged to survive hibernating through the winter.
The egg is a green spherical shape with around ten white ridged lines running from top to bottom, but then turns yellow and finally grey before hatching after two to three weeks. It can be found on the upper edges of leaves of plants in hedgerows and woodland, typically Nettle, Elm or Hop.
The young caterpillar lives on the undersides of leaves, moving to the top of the leaf as it grows, its close resemblance to a bird dropping protecting it from predators.
The beautiful chrysalis (green and pinky-brown with silver and gold spots) is much harder to spot as it hangs upside down in vegetation, disguised as a withered leaf.
The species has a flexible life cycle, allowing it to capitalize on favourable weather conditions. However, the most remarkable feature of the Comma has been its severe decline in the twentieth century then subsequent comeback. It is now widespread in southern Britain and its range is expanding northwards.
Size and Family
- Family: Nymphalids
- Size: Medium
- Wing Span Range (male to female): 55-60mm
- Butterfly Conservation priority: Low
- European status: Not threatened
The most widely used foodplant is Common Nettle (Urtica dioica). Other species used include Hop (Humulus lupulus), elms (Ulmus spp.), currants (Ribes spp.), and Willows (Salix spp).
The Comma's main breeding and hibernating habitats are open woodland and wood edges.
Before it hibernates, individuals range more widely in the search for nectar and rotting fruit and are often seen in gardens and many other habitats.
- Countries: England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales
- Widespread in England and Wales, rare in southern Scotland and Northern Ireland
- Distribution Trend Since 1970’s = +37%.