Comma - Polygonia c-album


Looking like a tatty Small Tortoiseshell, the Comma is now a familiar sight throughout most of England and Wales and is one of the few species that is bucking the trend by expanding its range. The butterfly gets its name from the white mark on its underside, which resembles a comma. When resting with wings closed this butterfly has excellent camouflage - the jagged outline of the wings giving the appearance of a withered leaf, making the butterfly inconspicuous when resting on a tree trunk or when hibernating. As with most butterflies, there are aberrant forms and with the Comma there are 18 recognised aberrants, eg ab. delta-album below.

Identification difficulty

This is primarily a woodland butterfly, where it can be seen along woodland rides and country lanes. However, especially in late summer, the butterfly is frequently seen in gardens where it feeds in on nectar sources to build up its fat reserves before entering hibernation.

When to see it

All year round but mainly March to October.

Life History

The butterfly can be seen at any time of the year, occasionally awakening on warm winter days. The butterfly emerges from hibernation in March, breeding to produce the next generation, which appear at the end of June and the start of July. The majority of the offspring have dark undersides and these go on to hibernate. However, some offspring have lighter undersides and brighter upper sides, and are known as the form hutchinsoni. These don't hibernate but instead go on produce a second brood in late summer. The larvae, which resemble bird droppings, feed mainly on nettles.

UK Status

Once confined to the Welsh border counties, this species is now found throughout England and Wales and has recently reached Scotland.

VC55 Status

Common in Leicestershire and Rutland.

59.031 BF1598

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Leicestershire & Rutland Map


Yellow squares = NBN records (all known data)
Coloured circles = NatureSpot records: 2020+ | 2015-2019 | pre-2015

UK Map