Comma

One of our most beautiful butterflies.
The Comma

Comma on Bepton Down

The Comma (Polygonia c-album)

The Comma gets its name from the a small white comma marking on the dark underside of the wing.

Once a common sight throughout England and Wales the Comma suffered a severe decline from the mid 19th century onwards. It became confined to counties near the Welsh border. This rapid disappearance was thought to have occurred due to the reduction in Hop farming which is a key foodplant for its larvae. Luckily it was able to adapt and now the larvae feed almost exclusively on the Common Stinging Nettle. The Comma started to expand its range once again in the 1960s and is now found throughout England and Wales and has also been sighted in Scotland. It will also feed on Elm which since the Dutch Elm Disease crisis became very scarce.

Eggs are laid individually in April and July on the top leaves of the nettle and will hatch within a fortnight. Larvae will be seen feeding on the nettle from May until August and these will pupate on their food plant in June and August. Butterflies belonging to the early brood emerging in May to June have a deep orange base colouration and are of the hutchinsoni form. Later on in the year the adults that will overwinter are much darker in colour. This difference is triggered by the decreasing day length. These individuals will hibernate from November until March in locations such as log piles and crevasses in tree trunks.

This is above all a woodland butterfly which explains why it is to be seen on the margins of Bepton Down. The primary source of nectar is to be found on Hemp Agrimony, Thistles, Brambles, Ivy, Knapweeds and Privet.

This is, for the moment, a success story.

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