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Posts tagged ‘comma’

Spiced orange

Comma Butterfly – Polygonia c-album (Female)

Polygonia c-album

This wet and cold weather will soon kill off the remainder of our summer insects, but quite a few of our butterflies will survive by hibernating. These include the Brimstone, Comma, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and to a lesser extent the Red Admiral (as the majority of these will migrate south back to the continent).

However, the business of finding a suitable spot and settling down for winter is a gradual process. So it is still possible to see a few butterflies on a sunny autumn day, particularly if you scan a good patch of bramble. My current favourites are the pristine, late-emerged specimens of the Comma Polygonia c-album. Basking in the sun with their wings wide-open these raggedy-edged, spiced-orange beauties really do stand out against the dark green leaves. But when, as in the photo below, they have their wings folded, they can be slightly harder to spot.

But that’s a good thing as it is this dark cryptic camouflage and irregular outline that will help keep them safe amongst the dry leaves of winter. Hiding them from the prying eyes of hungry birds and spiders.

Note the characteristic white mark or ‘comma’ on its rear underwing which gives this butterfly its common name. Personally I think it looks more like a squashed ‘v’ but let’s not get into an argument over aurelian typography.

If it survives the winter then it can be one of the first butterflies on the wing next year with sightings as early as January. And I for one will be glad to see it.

Comma butterfly with wings closed – Polygonia c-album (Female

Polygonia c-album

A female comma

Comma Butterfly – Polygonia c-album (Female)

Polygonia c-album – Female

The Comma Polygonia c-album is one of the earliest butterflies you might encounter each spring. I saw my first this year on the 25th March. Generally I’m sad to say that for many butterfly species numbers are in decline and this extremely wet summer really hasn’t helped. However, the Comma is one of our few butterfly success stories. Just over a century ago it was on the verge of extinction in Britain with fewer than half a dozen records in many southern counties. Then, just after the First World War it started to recover again. No one is really sure why it declined or why it has recovered but since the 1950s it has expanded its range rapidly making this raggedy-winged butterfly an increasingly common sight again, even in gardens. Read more