• Name: Comma | Polygonia c-album
  • Size: 55-60mm wingspan
  • Life span: Comma butterflies lifespan varies. The lighter variant has a short lifespan (of just a few months), while the dark late summer form can go on to hibernate until the following March, making their lifespan about 8 months.  
  • Diet: Comma butterflies feed on nectar & fallen fruits | Caterpillars preferred food Stinging nettles, but will also feed on species of Elm, Willow & Currant.
  • Reproduction: Female comma butterflies mate with several males to fertilise their eggs. They are able to distinguish between males that have fed on high-quality and low-quality plants and will favour the former. 
  • When to see: Spring, Summer and occasionally Autumn (March to October)
  • Where to see: Found in woodland clearings and gardens, also along hedgerows in Scilly i.e. Rocky Hill, St Mary's | Hillside Farm, Bryher | Abbey Gardens, Tresco in Scilly.  Often seen feeding on Ivy flowers.  
  • Conservation status:  Butterfly Conservation priority: Low | European status: Not threatened
  • Population Trend: Increasing following a severe decline in the Twentieth century.  It is believed climate change and the increase in temperatures are the reason this butterfly is thriving.
  • Threats:  Loss of habitat 
  • Fun Fact: Comma caterpillars are perfectly disguised to look like bird poo!

Description: An uncommon butterfly in Scilly, the Comma is a master at camouflage; with its ragged outline resembling a torn leaf and the caterpillar looking like a birds dropping – who’d want to eat that? 

It's an orange-brown butterfly with distinct markings; the undersides of it's wings are darker browns with a distinct comma-shaped white marking, from which it gets its name.

The Comma is usually solitary and often seen basking in the sunshine; returning to a favourite perch point. 

Its larval food plants in Scilly are Elm and Nettles.  Eggs are often laid in April with caterpillars appearing through May and into June and then adults emerging from the chrysalis in June and July. 

If conditions are right there can be a second brood in August and into September.

Want to know more?  

Butterflies and moths are sensitive indicators of the health of our environment; loss of habitat and environmental changes can impact populations in very short periods of time.  If you want to help us find out more regarding the distribution of this species please report and record your sightings (with pictures) via the general iRecord App or use the specialist iRecord Butterflies App.


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With thanks to BareFoot Photographer for the Comma butterfly image