Comma - Mike Taylor

Nature enthusiasts in the Highlands are being asked to look for a butterfly which is making a comeback in Scotland thanks to climate change, Butterfly Conservation (BC) can reveal.

The wildlife charity want to know where the Comma has been seen in the region this year, so experts can track the butterfly’s progress as it continues to spread northwards across the UK.

The Comma disappeared from Scotland nearly 150 years ago, but is now regularly seen in the south of the country.

The butterfly made its return to the Highlands in 2004 and since then, there have only been 23 confirmed sightings this far north.

Of these, 78% were in Badenoch and Strathspey, including Kingussie, Nethy Bridge and Boat of Garten.

The butterfly has also been spotted in Mallaig, Fort Augustus, Daviot and Aberlour and the first Comma of 2019 was recorded near Grantown-on-Spey in February.

BC’s Senior Conservation Officer for Scotland, Dr Tom Prescott, said: “The Comma hibernates during the winter and comes out when the weather is warmer, so that’s why we’ve already had a sighting in February.

“Now that we’ve come into spring, we are hoping to see more adults emerging, so we are asking people to keep an eye out for them in April and May and to let us know if they see any.

Comma (underside) - Andrew Cooper
The wings of a Comma look like a tattered dead leaf

“We think climate change is the reason behind this butterfly moving northwards, so we need to keep track of its progress to learn more. Sightings can be submitted using the free iRecord butterflies app or by contacting your local butterfly recorder.”

The Comma visits gardens in the spring, late summer and autumn. The butterfly is easily identified by its ragged wing edges and the distinctive white comma-shaped marking on the undersides of the wings.

When at rest, the shape and colour of the Comma’s wings look like a tattered dead leaf, providing camouflage against predators.

People can learn more about the Comma and other butterflies and moths found in the Highlands at a free event being held by BC’s Highlands Branch in Inverness on Saturday 13 April.
The Annual General Meeting of the Branch, which is running from 10am until 1pm at the Kingsview Christian Centre, will also include a talk on butterflies and the impacts of climate change by Dr Rosa Menendez of Lancaster University.

The keynote speaker has spent several seasons carrying out fieldwork in the Highlands.

We hope to see you there!