Comma

Polygonia c-album (po-lee-GOH-nee-uh see-AL-bum)

Comma - Chaldon, Surrey 19-March-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
 

Wingspan
50 - 64mm

Checklist Number
59.031

Family:NymphalidaeRafinesque, 1815
Subfamily:NymphalinaeRafinesque, 1815
Tribe:NymphaliniRafinesque, 1815
Genus:PolygoniaHübner, [1819]
Subgenus:  
Species:c-album(Linnaeus, 1758)
Subspecies:c-album(Linnaeus, 1758)
Form:c-album (Linnaeus, 1758)
 hutchinsoni Robson, 1881

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Introduction

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 considerably expanding its range. The butterfly gets its name from the only white marking 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.

This butterfly was once widespread over most of England and Wales, and parts of southern Scotland, but by the middle of the 1800s had suffered a severe decline that left it confined to the Welsh border counties, especially West Gloucestershire, East Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Monmouthshire. It is thought that the decline may have been due to a reduction in Hop farming, a key larval foodplant at the time. Since the 1960s this butterfly has made a spectacular comeback, with a preference for Common Nettle as the larval foodplant, and it is now found throughout England, Wales, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands and has recently reached Scotland. There have also been a few records from Ireland.

Polygonia c-album ssp. c-album f. c-album

This species was first defined in Linnaeus (1758) as shown here (type locality: Sweden).

The nominate form is found throughout its range.
Comma, Pulborough Brooks (5 September 2011)

Male
Photo © Mark Colvin

Comma (freshly hatched) - Caterham, Surrey 4-Oct-2012

Male Underside
Photo © Vince Massimo

Comma - River Cole Hall Green Birmingham April 11th 2014

Female
Photo © Neil Freeman

Comma female - Belstead Brook Park, Ipswich 2-Aug-2013

Female Underside
Photo © rodosranger

Photo Album ...


Polygonia c-album ssp. c-album f. hutchinsoni

This form was first defined in Robson (1881).

This form is found throughout its range and represents individuals that go on to produce a second brood, which differ from those individuals that overwinter as follows:

  • 1. Overall appearance much paler.
  • 2. The underside is especially paler, being yellow-brown with darker markings nearer the body, and with a few green spots and other marks at the wing margins.

Polygonia c-album ssp. c-album f. hutchinsoni (Robson, 1881)

The specimens emerging in early Summer are much paler in hue that those appearing later: the ground colour is about the same as the palest portion of the darker specimens, and all the other markings are paler in proportion. On the underside the differences are even more noticeable, the early form being pale yellow-brown, with rather darker markings towards the base, and a few green spots and marks near the hind margins of both wings.

The Summer form is so different, and so constant in its appearance, that it ought to have a distinctive name, and we suggest it be called var. Hutchinsoni, in compliment to that lady whose liberality has enriched so many cabinets with specimens; whose knowledge of the species, as has already been said, is not exceeded by that of any one living, and to whom we are greatly indebted for information mentioned above.

Comma - Crawley, Sussex 28-July-05

Male
Photo © Vince Massimo

Comma. 16/7/2013 Alfriston, East Sussex.

Male Underside
Photo © badgerbob

Comma f. hutchinsoni Stanwell Moor Middlesex 15th July 2012

Female
Photo © millerd

Comma - imago - Nr Siston Brook, Bristol - Unknown date [Mike Dimery]

Female Underside
Photo © Mike Dimery

Photo Album ...


History

The table below shows a chronology of vernacular names attributed to this species. Any qualification of the name (e.g. male, female) is shown in brackets after the name.

YearNameReference
1717Silver, Pale, Jagged-wing and Small CommasPetiver (1717)
1742Comma ButterflyWilkes (1742)

Conservation Status

The Comma is one of the few species that is thriving which is believed to be linked to global warming. Its range has been continually expanding and it has recently reached Scotland where it hasn't been seen since around 1870. As such, this is not a species of conservation concern.

UK BAP StatusOccurrence Change
1976-2014 (%)
Abundance Change
1976-2014 (%)
Occurrence Change
2005-2014 (%)
Abundance Change
2005-2014 (%)
Not Listed
Large Increase+57
Large Increase+150
Increase+11
Decrease-28

The table above shows the occurrence (distribution) and abundance (population) trends, using information from The State of the UK's Butterflies 2015 (Fox, 2015). Any UK BAP status is taken from the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) (2007 review).

Habitat

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.

Distribution

 

Click here to see the distribution of this species or here to see the distribution of this species together with specific site information overlaid.

Life Cycle

The butterfly can be seen at any time of the year, occasionally awakening on warm winter days. The butterfly emerges from hibernation in March, giving rise to the next generation which appears at the end of June and start of July. The majority of the offspring have dark undersides and these go on to hibernate. However, the remainder of the offspring have quite light undersides and brighter uppersides, and are known as the form hutchinsoni. This form is named after Emma Hutchinson who discovered that this form goes on to breed and produce another generation that then overwinter. As a result, there is another emergence of fresh adults in late summer.

The trigger for the development of this form is the changing day length as the larva develops. If day length is increasing (before midsummer's day) as the larva develops, then the majority of adults will be the hutchinsoni form that go on to produce another generation, whereas if day length is decreasing, then the majority of adults will be the regular dark form that enter hibernation. The assumption, therefore, is that a good spring will allow for an earlier emergence and more-rapid larval development, resulting in a high proportion of hutchinsoni adults which can then comfortably fit in another brood.

Polygonia c-album ssp. c-album f. c-album

The chart(s) above have been correlated with the phenology plot below, taken from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. The blue line gives average counts over the full data set from 1976 to date, and the red line gives the average for the last year.

 

Imago

After emerging from hibernation, both sexes search out nectar sources, such as Sallow flowers or Blackthorn blossom. They also spend a good amount of time basking, favourite surfaces being tree trunks, wood piles, dead bracken and fence posts.

The male butterfly sets up a territory, often on the sunny side of a woodland margin or at the junction of two woodland rides. Here he will sit on a favourite perch awaiting a passing female and will fly up to investigate any passing insect. The male will also make short flights - always returning to the same perch. Even when disturbed, the male will fly off for several metres or so before predictably returning to exactly the same leaf. When egg-laying the female makes short fluttering flights over the foodplant, stopping every few feet, landing on the foodplant and, if suitable, laying a single green egg.

Those adults that hibernate take a good deal of nectar, building up essential fat reserves that will see them through the winter. They are often seen feeding from garden flowers or fruit, such as blackberries or fallen plums. They eventually search out woodland where they find a suitable location in which to hibernate such as a tree trunk, branch, hollow tree or log pile.

Adults feed primarily on Thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.). Bramble (Rubus fruticosus), Ivy (Hedera helix), Knapweeds (Centaurea spp.) and Privet (Ligustrum vulgare) are also used.

Polygonia c-album ssp. c-album f. c-album

Comma - Knepp Estate, Sussex 7-Sept-2012

Photo © Neil Hulme
07-Sep-2012

Comma, Rewell Wood, 11 September 2009

Photo © Neil Hulme
11-Sep-2009

Comma, Pulborough Brooks (5 September 2011)

Photo © Mark Colvin
05-Sep-2011

Comma - Birling Gap, Sussex 22-Sept-10

Photo © Vince Massimo
22-Sep-2010

Comma - Solihull, West Midlands 20.03.2015

Photo © Neil Freeman
20-Mar-2015

Comma - Addington, Surrey 15-March-12

Photo © Vince Massimo
15-Mar-2012

Comma - Solihull West Midlands 06.10.2012

Photo © Neil Freeman
06-Oct-2012

Comma - Park Corner Heath, Sussex 12-March-2012

Photo © Neil Hulme
12-Mar-2012

Comma - Chaldon, Surrey 19-March-11

Photo © Vince Massimo
19-Mar-2011

Comma - male - Woolhampton Gravel Pits - 06-Oct-13

Photo © Pete Eeles
06-Oct-2013

Comma - Castle Hills Solihull 29.03.2013

Photo © Neil Freeman
29-Mar-2014

Comma female - Middlesex 5-Sept-2016

Photo © millerd
05-Sep-2016

Comma pair - Holywells Park, Ipswich 19-Mar-2011

Photo © rodosranger

Comma - imago - Woolhampton Gravel Pits - 14-Sep-11 (2)

Photo © Pete Eeles

Comma - Crawley, Sussex 19-sept-08

Photo © Vince Massimo
19-Sep-2008

Comma, reared, Liphook, 13/09/2015

Photo © Pauline
13-Sep-2015

Comma (upperside of ab. o-album) - Birling Gap, Sussex 22-Sept-10

Photo © Vince Massimo
22-Sep-2010

Comma - Closeup - Bournemouth - 27 Aug 2011

Photo © Coopera

Comma - male - Woolhampton Gravel Pits - 06-Oct-13-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
06-Oct-2013

Comma - River Cole Hall Green Birmingham April 11th 2014

Photo © Neil Freeman
11-Apr-2014

Photo Album (46 photos) ...


Polygonia c-album ssp. c-album f. hutchinsoni

H.Comma - Kingston Lacey - 11-06-2017

Photo © Wurzel

comma, female hutchinsoni, shirley holms new forest 09

Photo © geniculata
25-Jun-2009

Comma - imago - Thatcham - 22-Jun-09 (1)

Photo © Pete Eeles
22-Jun-2009

Comma - imago - Holkham, Norfolk - Unknown date [Adrian Riley]

Photo © Adrian Riley

Comma - Crawley, Sussex 28-July-05

Photo © Vince Massimo
28-Jul-2005

Comma - imago - Thatcham - 15-Jun-10 (1)

Photo © Pete Eeles
15-Jun-2010

Comma - imago - Nr Siston Brook, Bristol - Unknown date [Mike Dimery]

Photo © Mike Dimery

Comma - imago - Bentley Wood - 04-Jul-06 (0445)

Photo © Pete Eeles
04-Jul-2006

Comma f. hutchinsoni - Solihull 07.07.2017

Photo © Neil Freeman
07-Jul-2017

Comma - Solihull West Midlands 12.07.2014

Photo © Neil Freeman
12-Jul-2014

Comma f. hutchinsoni Stanwell Moor Middlesex 29th June 2012

Photo © millerd
29-Jun-2012

Comma - Bickenhill, Solihull 12.07.2015

Photo © Neil Freeman
12-Jul-2015

Comma f. hutchinsoni Kew Gardens Surrey 14th July 2012

Photo © millerd
14-Jul-2012

Comma - imago - Bentley Wood - 01-Jul-08 (1)

Photo © Pete Eeles
01-Jul-2008

Comma - imago - Tewkesbury - 28-Jun-07 [David Whiteman]

Photo © David Whiteman

Comma. 16/7/2013 Alfriston, East Sussex.

Photo © badgerbob
16-Jul-2013

Comma - 14.07.2012 Ryton Wood Warwickshire

Photo © Neil Freeman
14-Jul-2012

Comma - Crawley, Sussex 1-July-08

Photo © Vince Massimo
01-Jul-2008

Comma - imago - Crabtree Plantation - 03-Jul-06 (0440)

Photo © Pete Eeles
03-Jul-2006

Comma, Eartham Wood, Sussex 3 July 2015

Photo © trevor

Photo Album (26 photos) ...


Ovum

Eggs are laid singly on the foodplant, toward the edge of a leaf upperside, each female laying up to 275 eggs. They are normally laid on plants at the margins of woods, in woodland glades and rides or next to a hedgerow. Eggs are green when first laid but eventually turn yellow and ultimately grey just before hatching. This stage lasts between 2 and 3 weeks, depending on temperature.

"The ova are laid singly, and principally on the upper surface of the leaf. The ovum measures in height 0.8 mm. and is of an elongate spheroid form, smallest at the crown; there are either ten or eleven (eleven the most frequent) glassy-white longitudinal keels, which run from the crown to the base; they all commence at the edge of the micropyle, leaving the central portion of the summit bare; they are highest at the commencement, decreasing in height as they descend, and form fine ribs after traversing the upper half, and finally disappear on reaching the base; they have the appearance of fluted glass and are of a glistening whiteness; the spaces between the keels are slightly concave and very slightly ribbed transversely, only showing on that portion of the egg which is in high light. The colour is a clear green with whitish granulations, giving the appearance of a fine cellular pattern, which appears somewhat under the surface, and only visible on the shaded portion of the shell; the base is rounded and smooth; the micropyle is granular and slightly convex. The colour begins to change about four days before hatching, gradually turning more opaque and somewhat yellower, and showing a darkish blotch about the middle, which slowly grows more distinct, and then the dark head of the larva appears visible under the surface of the crown. The egg then deepens into a dark grey-green, and finally the crown becomes black. The young larva makes its exit by eating away the micropyle until the aperture is sufficiently large to allow its head to protrude, when it crawls very slowly out of the shell and at once creeps to the under surface of the leaf, and thereon spins a slight web and commences feeding. On May 4th, larva began to hatch out of the eggs first deposited, the egg state lasting about seventeen days." - Frohawk (1924)

Comma ovum - Crawley, Sussex 28-March-2011

Photo © Vince Massimo
28-Mar-2011

Comma egg on nettle - Black Park, Bucks 9-July-2010

Photo © millerd

Comma Ova (1 day old on hop leaf) - Bristol July 2010

Photo © AdamArmitage

Comma - ovum - New Arlesford - 13-May-12

Photo © Pete Eeles

Comma ova on Hop - Caterham, Surrey 27-July-2013

Photo © Vince Massimo
27-Jul-2013

Comma Ovum - Somerset - 29/07/13

Photo © William
29-Jul-2013

Comma ovum (right), Red Admiral ovum (left) - Somerset 30-July-2014

Photo © William
30-Jul-2014

Comma ovum. 3 days old on Nettle. Arlington, East Sussex.

Photo © badgerbob

Comma Ovum - Somerset - 02/08/15

Photo © William
02-Aug-2015

Comma - Ova - Bournemouth - 19-Jul-15

Photo © Coopera

Comma ova (2 hours before hatching) - Crawley, Sussex 9-July-2017

Photo © Vince Massimo
09-Jul-2017

Comma ova - Crawley, Sussex 6-July-2017

Photo © Vince Massimo
06-Jul-2017

Comma - ovum - Woolhampton Gravel Pits - 13-Apr-17

Photo © Pete Eeles
13-Apr-2017

Photo Album (13 photos) ...


Larva

On emerging, the young larva moves to the underside of a leaf where it feeds. As it matures it feeds on the upperside of the leaf and is quite unmistakable, resembling a bird dropping. This stage lasts around 5 weeks, depending on temperature. Larvae of the first brood have 5 instars while those of the second brood have 4 instars.

The primary larval foodplant is Common Nettle (Urtica dioica). Currants (various) (Ribes spp.), Elms (various) (Ulmus spp.), Hop (Humulus lupulus) and Willows (various) (Salix spp.) are also used.

Comma - larva - Unknown location - Unknown date (2) [Ian Surman]

Photo © Ian Surman

Photo Album (1 photos) ...


1st Instar

"Directly after emergence the little larva measures 2.12 mm. long. The body, legs and claspers are of a pale ochreous, tinged with green, especially on the anterior segments; the fourth, sixth, eighth, tenth and eleventh segments are rather darker than the rest of the body, these five segments being of a rusty-brown hue, giving the larva a somewhat banded appearance. Each segment consists of large swollen prominences, those on the dorsal surface being very large and elevated; those on the lateral region are more compressed; those of the dorsal pair on each segment are the largest, and from the apex of each rises a long, gently curved hair which tapers off into a very fine point. Those of the sub-dorsal pair are conical in form and united at their bases, and one placed slightly above the other, the lower one being directly above the spiracle; both these terminate by a long hair, the upper one curving forwards and the lower one curving backwards. Immediately below the spiracle is a double globular wart, the anterior portion bearing two hairs, one curving slightly forwards and downwards, the other directed backwards and downwards; the posterior half bcars one hair which curves upwards and backwards. All the hairs are simple, finely pointed, and have bulbous bases, excepting the dorsal ones. All are black with light tips. The claspers are very ample, and have two delicate, whitish, finely pointed spines, both directed downwards; the foot is black. The greater part of the surface of the larva has a granular effect, especially on the under surface, where it is clothed with extremely minute blackish points. The head is shining black and beset with hairs. The spiracles are black. When nine days old, and before the first moult, it measures 3.2 mm. in length. The ground colour is clear brown, inclining to ochreous, palest on the under surface, and checkered with dark brown and white, and studded with black warts, each emitting a long hair as described above, but now all the hairs are stiffened and appear as fine bristles. The dorsal half of the second, third, fifth, seventh and ninth segments are white, also the greater part of the anal segment; the remaining segments are brown dorsally (appearing dark brown from the presence of black warts on the sienna-brown ground colour), which forms a strong contrast with the white. The entire surface is particularly glossy, and the white resembles marble. The head, legs and claspers remain unchanged. The larva generally rests in nearly a straight position, but sometimes a good deal curved, in the form of a fish-hook, but more often only slightly curved. It lives entirely upon the under surface of the leaf, and spins a fine layer of silk between the ribs, upon which it rests. After each meal it turns round and, retracing its steps, rests in the same place as before, and with its head furthermost from the part eaten. It feeds upon the spines, smaller ribs and whole substance of the leaf, excepting the largest midribs, making large perforations in the leaf. During the act of defecation the larva elevates the posterior end, and curving the anterior part of its body round, it takes the excrement in its mouth and jerks it away; if not successful in its first attempt to jerk it aside, it brushes it from its mouth with the long, stiff, dorsal hairs on the hinder segments. Directly after emergence from the egg, the larva upon being touched exudes a bead of greenish-black fluid from its mouth, and remains immediately afterwards perfectly still, as if paralysed, but only for about fifteen or twenty seconds. Since the hatching of the eggs the weather remained dull and cold, the average day temperature being only about 52 degrees, therefore the growth of the larva during the first stage was undoubtedly considerably retarded." - Frohawk (1924)

Comma larva (first instar) - Caterham, Surrey 13-Aug-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
13-Aug-2012

Comma larva (first instar) - Caterham, Surrey 13-Aug-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
13-Aug-2012

Comma Larva - First Instar - Somerset - 07/08/14

Photo © William
07-Aug-2014

Comma larva 1st instar (pre-moult) - Nr. Amberley, Sussex 19-July-2017

Photo © Vince Massimo
18-Jul-2017

Comma - L1 - Thatcham - 20-Apr-17 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Apr-2017

Comma - L1 - Thatcham - 23-Apr-17 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
23-Apr-2017

Photo Album (6 photos) ...


2nd Instar

"The first moult occurred on May 14th, when a large number moulted. Before second moult the larva, when fourteen days old, is 5.4 mm. long, and rather stout in proportion; the ground colour is pale drab, shading into ivory-white on the lateral and under surface, checkered with brownish-black; there are seven longitudinal rows of spines, placed medio-dorsal, sub-dorsal, super-spiracular and sub-spiracular; each spine terminates in a rather long, finely pointed bristle, and bearing other shorter and very fine bristles; all the spines are black, excepting those on the fifth, seventh and ninth segments of the medio and sub-dorsal rows, which are white, the white spreading over the dorsal surface of those segments and very conspicuous. The bases of the dorsal spines on the second and third segments, as well as the greater portion of the first and last segments, are of the same ivory-white colour. There are no spines on the first segment. The head is shining black, with two short, blunt tubercles on the crown, one on each lobe, and emits a number of black bristles. The surface of the head is scattered with numerous black hairs. The legs are black and white, the claspers whitish with black extremities. They rest in the same attitude as in the previous stage, and always upon the under surface of the leaf." - Frohawk (1924)

Comma - First Instar Caterpillar (reared) - Mountstewart, Co Down, Northern Ireland 22-July-2008

Photo © Dave McCormick

Comma larva (second instar) - Caterham, Surrey 16-Aug-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
16-Aug-2012

Comma larva (second instar) - Caterham, Surrey 30-Aug-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
30-Aug-2012

Comma Larva (Freshly Moulted into Second Instar) - Somerset - 07/08/14

Photo © William
07-Aug-2014

2nd Instar Comma larvae on Wych Elm - Hedge End, Hants - 5.8.2016

Photo © Paul Harfield

Comma (2nd instar) reared 25-April-2017

Photo © Pauline
25-Apr-2017

Comma larva 2nd instar (first brood) - Crawley, Sussex 16-July-2017

Photo © Vince Massimo
16-Jul-2017

Comma larva 2nd instar (first brood) pre-moult - Crawley, Sussex 17-July-2017

Photo © Vince Massimo
17-Jul-2017

Comma - L2 - Thatcham - 26-Apr-17 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
26-Apr-2017

Comma - L2 - Thatcham - 24-Apr-17 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
24-Apr-2017

Comma - L2 - Thatcham - 27-Apr-17 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
27-Apr-2017

Photo Album (11 photos) ...


3rd Instar

"The second moult was on May 21st. After the second moult, twenty-six days old, it measures 11 mm. long; the body is cylindrical and of uniform thickness throughout. The ground colour is of a dark olive-brown, reticulated with white along the dorsal and sub-spiracular regions; the dorsal pair of spines on the second and third segments are amber-yellow; those on the fourth segment (where the medio-dorsal series commences) are all black; the three dorsal spines of the fifth segment are paler yellow, and creamy-white on the seventh, ninth and twelfth; all are black on the sixth, eighth, tenth and eleventh segments; all the spines are furnished with very finely pointed black spinelets; the creamy-white surrounding the bases of the white and pale amber spines forms large and conspicuous markings. All other details are similar to the previous stage, and their habits are the same." - Frohawk (1924)

Comma larva (3rd instar) - Caterham, Surrey 21-Aug-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
21-Aug-2012

Comma larva (3rd instar) - Caterham, Surrey 21-Aug-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
21-Aug-2012

Comma larva (penultimate instar - pale form) - Caterham, Surrey 19-July-2013

Photo © Vince Massimo
19-Jul-2013

Comma larva 3rd instar (first brood) post-moult - Crawley, Sussex 17-July-2017

Photo © Vince Massimo
17-Jul-2017

Comma larva 3rd instar (first brood) - Crawley, Sussex 19-July-2017

Photo © Vince Massimo
19-Jul-2017

Comma - L3 - Thatcham - 28-Apr-17 [REARED

Photo © Pete Eeles
28-Apr-2017

Comma - L3 - Thatcham - 28-Apr-17 [REARED-3

Photo © Pete Eeles
28-Apr-2017

Comma - L3 - Thatcham - 29-Apr-17 [REARED-4

Photo © Pete Eeles
29-Apr-2017

Photo Album (8 photos) ...


4th Instar

"The third moult occurred on June 21st. Shortly before the fourth moult, and thirty-four days old, it measures, while extended, 16 mm.; the ground colour is black, the sixth to tenth segments inclusive have the dorsal surface encircling the medio and sub-dorsal spines of a milky-white colour; the eleventh segment has the anterior half white. All the dorsal spines of the second, third, fourth and fifth segments are amber yellow; all the super-spiracular spines are black, and are situated on amber-yellow crescentic markings; those of the sub-spiracular series are greyish and placed on a creamy-white streak; a curved amber-yellow streak passes directly below the spiracles, which are outlined with whitish; the body is encircled by two white lines at the segmental divisions, but those on the anterior part are pale yellow." - Frohawk (1924)

Comma larva 4th Instar (pale form) - Old Winchester Hill, Hampshire 13-Aug-2017

Photo © andy brown

Comma larva (final instar) - Caterham, Surrey 19-Sept-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
19-Sep-2012

Comma - L4 - Thatcham - 03-May-17 [REARED

Photo © Pete Eeles
03-May-2017

Comma - L4 - Thatcham - 02-May-17 [REARED

Photo © Pete Eeles
02-May-2017

Comma - larva - Bath - 17-Aug-05 [Graham Smith]

Photo © Graham Smith

Comma larva parasitised, Liphook, 19/08/2014

Photo © Pauline
19-Aug-2014

Comma larva final instar (pale form) - Caterham, Surrey 24-July-2013

Photo © Vince Massimo
24-Jul-2013

Comma larva (commencing pupation) - Caterham, Surrey 22-Sept-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
22-Sep-2012

Comma larva (final instar) - Caterham, Surrey 11-Aug-2013

Photo © Vince Massimo
11-Aug-2013

Comma - L4 - Thatcham - 03-May-17 [REARED-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
03-May-2017

Comma larva (preparing to pupate) - Caterham, Surrey 22-Sept-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
20-Sep-2012

Comma larva (early 4th instar) - Caterham, Surrey 26-Aug-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
26-Aug-2012

Comma larva 4th instar (first brood) - Crawley, Sussex 25-July-2017

Photo © Vince Massimo
25-Jul-2017

Comma larva (seconds from pupation) - Caterham, Surrey 22-Sept-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
22-Sep-2012

Comma larva 4th instar (first brood) - Crawley, Sussex 21-July-2017

Photo © Vince Massimo
21-Jul-2017

Comma larva (final instar) - Caterham, Surrey 11-Aug-2013

Photo © Vince Massimo
11-Aug-2013

Comma - larva - Thatcham - 24-Aug-08 (1)

Photo © Pete Eeles
24-Aug-2008

Comma larva parasitised, Liphook, 19/08/2014

Photo © Pauline
19-Aug-2014

Comma larva 4th instar (first brood) - Crawley, Sussex 25-July-2017

Photo © Vince Massimo
27-Jul-2017

Comma larva (early 4th instar) - Caterham, Surrey 26-Aug-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
26-Aug-2012

Photo Album (25 photos) ...


5th Instar

"The fourth and last moult took place on June 8th. After the fourth moult, fully grown, forty-five days old, it measures from 31.8 mm. to 35 mm. in length, when extended while crawling. The body is almost uniform in thickness, the first and last segments only being the smallest. Each segment is much swollen round the middle, so that the larva has the appearance of being tightly girdled at the juncture of each se ment There are seven longitudinal rows of spines from the fourth to eleventh segments inclusive, which are situated in the following order, each having a medio-dorsal, sub-dorsal, super-spiracular and sub-spiracular spine, the medio-dorsal spine being a little in advance of the rest. The second, third and twelfth segments have each four spines; all those on the second, third, fourth and fifth are amber-yellow, excepting the sub-spiracular, which are white; all the other spines on the body are white, excepting the super-spiracular series, which are tinged with ochreous; all the spines are branched, each branch or spinelet is tipped with amber, and each spine also emits a number of very fine white hairs. The first segment is without spines, but has a transverse series of short and slender orange tubercles, each terminated with a fine pale hair curving forwards. The head in front is flattened and square, the lobes of the crown are swollen, and each surmounted by a short, club-like knob directed forwards and outwards. Upon the clubbed apex are five or six minute orange spines, each bearing a long, fine, amber-coloured hair; other similar spines are dotted over the face. The ground colour of the head is dull black; the clypeus is outlined with pale ochreous, and a short orange streak in front on each lobe of the crown. The ground colour of the body is black, reticulated with lilac-grey; the anterior half of the body is transversely ringed with amber-yellow at the segmental divisions; and those on the posterior half are white dorsally and yellow laterally; the greater part of the dorsal surface of the second, third, fourth and fifth segments is amber-yellow; the sixth to tenth segments inclusive have almost the whole of the dorsal surface white, with a short, oblique black mark in front of each sub-dorsal spine, also a smaller black spot in front of the medio-dorsal spines and a fainter one behind. The white surrounds the sub-dorsal spines and is bordered below by velvety black, then by a rich deep orange, wavy, longitudinal super-spiracular band and a similar but paler orange sub-spiracular band, both being united by an oblique narrow streak of deep orange passing immediately behind the spiracles; on these bands are placed the spines; a short straw-yellow streak occurs anterior to, and just above, the claspers; at the base of each clasper is a row of four or five small orange warts, each bearing a fine white hair. The body has several minute warts sprinkled over the surface, each emitting a delicate white hair. The legs are shining black, the claspers grey at the base, shining black on the middle, with pale ochreous extremities. When about to suspend itself for pupation, the white on the dorsal surface changed to a greyish hue. The larvae are gregarious, living generally in small companies, but sometimes many will crowd upon a certain leaf; their habits are similar in all stages, the usual resting attitude resembling the form of a fish-hook. A larva suspended itself for pupation on June 20th, and pupated the following day, the larval state lasting forty-seven days." - Frohawk (1924)

Comma - larva - Thatcham - 10-Jun-06 (0247) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Jun-2006

Comma larva, reared, 16/06/2015

Photo © Pauline
16-Jun-2015

Comma, final instar, 12/05/2017, reared

Photo © Pauline
12-May-2017

Comma, final instar, 06/05/2017, reared

Photo © Pauline
06-May-2017

Comma larva 5th instar (first brood) - Crawley, Sussex 26-July-2017

Photo © Vince Massimo
26-Jul-2017

Comma larva 5th instar (first brood) - Crawley, Sussex 26-July-2017

Photo © Vince Massimo
26-Jul-2017

Comma larva 5th instar (first brood) - Crawley, Sussex 29-July-2017

Photo © Vince Massimo
29-Jul-2017

Comma larva 5th instar (first brood) - Crawley, Sussex 3-Aug-2017

Photo © Vince Massimo
03-Aug-2017

Sturmia Bella ex. c-album - Thatcham - 13-Sep-17 [REARED

Photo © Pete Eeles
13-Sep-2017

Comma - L5 - Thatcham - 12-May-17 [REARED

Photo © Pete Eeles
12-May-2017

Sturmia Bella ex. c-album - Thatcham - 11-Sep-17 [REARED

Photo © Pete Eeles
11-Sep-2017

Photo Album (11 photos) ...


Pupa

The pupa is suspended head down, attached by the cremaster, to either the foodplant, surrounding vegetation or some other suitable platform. The pupa is quite beautiful and the green and brown colouring augmented with a small number of subtle silver spots, together with a jagged outline, give a superb impression of a withered leaf. This stage lasts around 2 weeks.

"The pupa averages in length 21.2 mm. Dorsal view: The head is square; the palpi cases are widely separated, sharply pointed, curving inwards, and are very jaw-like in form; the thorax is bi-angular at the base of the wing. The body is much nipped in round the middle, giving a deep concavity to the wing, which is acutely angulated on the hind margin. The abdomen is attenuated, and the anal point elongated. Lateral view: The head is beaked in front; the thorax much swollen, with a central, deep, rounded keel, and is deeply sunken at the juncture of the abdomen. The dorsal line of the abdomen is curved, the posterior segment is truncated, and the anal point (cremaster) is flattened and elongated, measuring 2.12 mm. The outline of the lateral surface, from near the apex of the antenna to the head, is almost straight, the antenna incurving at the apex. The abdomen has a medio-dorsal series of very small ochreous-yellow points, one on each segment, and smaller black points forming super and sub-spiracular rows; the sub-dorsal series consists of larger points, especially on the fourth segment, which are the largest, conical and sharply pointed; those on the first, second and third segments are of brilliant metallic appearance, resembling highly burnished silver, with opaline iridescence. Those of the first pair are the largest and most compressed. A streak of brilliant coppery gold ornaments the anterior portion of the third and fourth segments, running from the edge of the segment to the silver point. The ground colour of normal specimens is a pinkish-buff, very delicately reticulated with black; two broad, oblique, dark olive-green bands cross the wing, one at the apex, the other across the middle; three bands of similar colour extend down the abdomen, one on each side, enclosing the black spiracles; the other is central along the under surface. The dorsal surface of the abdomen is blotched with olive, and has a medio-dorsal line of pale pink. The thorax is streaked with deep pink; the palpi are black. On the hind legs is an olive streak shading into black, and terminating in a black point at the end of the tibia. There is also a smaller black point on the fore leg. The cremaster is buff, streaked longitudinally with black, and is amply provided with shining brown hooks at the extremity. The outline of the hind margin of the wing-case is most dissimilar and disconnected with that of the true wing, which has the deep angular margin clearly defined in the pupa, which in the former is a simple curve. Some specimens are more uniform in colour, having the markings much less defined, especially on the wing, and are generally somewhat metallic, as if lightly washed over with gold bronze, and in some the ground colour is a deep pink. The pupa is suspended by the anal hooks to a small dense silken pad spun by the larva, generally upon the under side of the stalk or the midrib of the leaf, and also upon the stems of the plant. It remains in the pupal state from ten to fifteen days, but the time is entirely regulated by temperature. The imago emerged (from the pupa described) on July 2nd, remaining eleven days in the pupa. The descriptions are all taken from the same individual, from directly after the hatching of the egg to the emergence of the imago." - Frohawk (1924)

Comma pupa (22 hours before hatching) - Caterham, Surrey 3-Oct-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
03-Oct-2012

Comma pupa - Crawley, Sussex 8-Aug-2017

Photo © Vince Massimo
08-Aug-2017

Comma emerging from pupa, 23/09/2015, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
23-Sep-2015

Comma larva pupating - Caterham, Surrey 22-Sept-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
22-Sep-2012

Comma emerging from pupa, 23/09/2015, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
23-Sep-2015

Comma (hatching) - Caterham, Surrey 4-Oct-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
04-Oct-2012

Comma (hatching) - Caterham, Surrey 4-Oct-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
04-Oct-2012

Comma - pupa - Thatcham - 28-Aug-08 (2)

Photo © Pete Eeles
28-Aug-2008

Comma larva (completing pupation) - Caterham, Surrey 22-Sept-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
22-Sep-2012

Comma - pupa - Thatcham - 09-Jun-06 (0233) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Jun-2006

Comma emerging from pupa, 23/09/2015, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
23-Sep-2015

Comma pupa (dorsal view) - Caterham, Surrey 29-Sept-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
30-Sep-2012

Comma - pupa - Thatcham - 28-Aug-08 (3)

Photo © Pete Eeles
28-Aug-2008

Comma (hatching) - Caterham, Surrey 4-Oct-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
04-Oct-2012

Comma - pupa - Thatcham - 22-Aug-12

Photo © Pete Eeles

Comma larva pupating - Caterham, Surrey 22-Sept-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
22-Sep-2012

Comma pupa (30 mins old) - Caterham, Surrey 22-Sept-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
22-Sep-2012

Comma emerging from pupa, 23/09/2015, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
23-Sep-2015

Comma pupa - Southwater, Sussex 30-June-2010

Photo © Neil Hulme
30-Jun-2010

Comma pupa (lateral view) - Caterham, Surrey 29-Sept-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
29-Sep-2012

Photo Album (34 photos) ...


Aberrations

Description to be completed.

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References

The species description provided here references the following publications:

ReferenceDetails
Frohawk (1924) Frohawk, F.W. (1924) The Natural History of British Butterflies.
Hübner (1819) Hübner, J. (1819) Verzeichniss bekannter Schmettlinge.
Linnaeus (1758) Linnaeus, C. (1758) Systema Naturae. Edition 10.
Petiver (1717) Petiver, J. (1717) Papilionum Britanniae Icones.
Rafinesque (1815) Rafinesque, C.S. (1815) Analyse de la nature ou Tableau de l'univers et des corps organisés.
Robson (1881) Robson, J.E. (1881) The Young Naturalist.
Wilkes (1742) Wilkes, B. (1742) Twelve New Designs of English Butterflies.