Steven Cheshire's British Butterflies
British Butterflies: Species: Species Account - The Comma:
Polygonia c-album (Linnaeus, 1758)

Comma egg.
  Comma caterpillar.
  Comma chrysalis
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Insecta: Lepidoptera : Family Nymphalidae: Subfamily Nymphalinae : Genus Polygonia: Species c-album:
Eggs are laid singly on the uppermost leaves and the caterpillars usually hatch after about 15 days. The favored foodplant in the past was Hops but a decline in village breweries has caused a move towards nettle (usually growing in shaded positions) as the favored foodplant although Elm is often used as well.

The larvae of the Comma are particularly attractive at close quarters although from a distance resemble a bird dropping.

Pupation almost always takes place on the foodplant.

Butterflies of the summer brood appearing around May/June are deep orange and are known as form hutchinsoni. Later broods and those overwintering as Adults are more usually deeper brown above while their underwing is either a beautiful mix of blues greys and browns or the more usual orange/brown.
The Comma is presently a relatively common butterfly but up until the 1940's the Comma was only regularly seen on the Welsh borders.
The Comma is a relatively common species in England an Wales becoming less common further north towards the edge of its range around northern England. It appears to be extending northwards probably as a result of global warming in recent years. The adult butterflies from the summer brood hibernate during the winter and it is these individuals which you will see on the wing in early spring (March/April) the following year.

It is a strong flyer and can travel long distances so may turn up anywhere where suitable nectar plants occur.
Where to see the Comma in the British Isles
Other notes
The Comma is a unique butterfly like no other found in the UK. With beautiful rich browns and reds of the upperside and the intricate patterning of the underwing the scalloped shaped wings and deep oranges and browns make this a true favorite of mine.
Lifecycle chart
Flight chart
The lifecycle and flight charts should be regarded as approximate guides to the Comma in Britain. Specific lifecycle states, adult emergence and peak flight times vary from year to year due to variations in weather conditions.
IUCN category status 2010 5   IUCN category status 2007 34
--awaiting data-- --awaiting data--

5Fox, R., Warren, M., Brereton, T. M., Roy, D. B. & Robinson, A.
(2010) A new Red List of British Butterflies. Insect Conservation and Diversity.
Least Concern Least Concern

3Fox, R., Warren, M & Brereton, T.
(2007) New Red List of British Butterflies. Butterfly Conservation, Wareham.

4More information about IUCN categories.
UK status
Larval foodplants
The larvae feed on Common Nettle (Urtica dioica) Hops () and English Elm ().
Butterflies of Britain ID Chart
Your personal guide to British Butterflies. This 8-panel laminated chart is designed for speedy butterfly identification in the field. Ideal for anyone interested in identifying butterflies, perfect for children and adults and ideal for outdoor use, laminated, shower-proof and robust. Get your copy today.
Butterflies of Britain (Laminated ID Chart).
Online store
Visit our online store for many more butterfly related books and gifts.
Population trends 1
UK Population trend 1995-2004 up by 64%
UK Population trend 1976-2004 up by 305%

1Fox, R., Asher. J., Brereton. T., Roy, D & Warren, M. (2006) The State of Butterflies in Britain & Ireland, Pices, Oxford.
UK BAP status 2
UK BAP status not listed (link)

2For information about the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, visit the JNCC web site

National Biodiversity Network Gateway
National Biodiversity Network Gateway Distribution Map

Areas in and indicate a contraction in distribution of the Comma except in Ireland where data is only available up until 1999.

* Records shown in outside the natural distribution may be the result of illegal or accidental releases by breeders or, depending upon the species, migrant individuals from mainland Europe.

Key to map*
= 2000 to 2010 inclusive (current distribution)
= records from 1950 to 1999 inclusive
= records from 1900 to 1949 inclusive
Records prior to 1st January 1900 are not shown.

The NBN Gateway records are shown on the map right. (See terms and conditions).

More data is available on the Comma on the NBN Gateway web site.
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For full details of books and reports mentioned on this web site, view the references page.

Find out more online*
Comma can be found on Peter Eeles excellent UK Butterflies web site.
Comma can be found on Matt Rowlings excellent European Butterflies web site.

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Photographs of the Comma
Image ID BB2396 - Comma - © Steven Cheshire
Comma (imago)
BB2396 ©
Image ID BB2197 - Comma - © Steven Cheshire
Comma female (imago)
BB2197 ©
Image ID BB2194 - Comma - © Steven Cheshire
Comma male (imago)
BB2194 ©
Image ID BB2193 - Comma - © Steven Cheshire
Comma male (imago)
BB2193 ©
Image ID BB1698 - Comma - © Steven Cheshire
Comma male (imago)
BB1698 ©
Image ID BB1299 - Comma - © Steven Cheshire
Comma male (imago)
BB1299 ©
Image ID BB1298 - Comma - © Steven Cheshire
Comma female (imago)
BB1298 ©
Image ID BB1297 - Comma - © Steven Cheshire
Comma male (imago)
BB1297 ©
Image ID BB1296 - Comma - © Steven Cheshire
Comma male (imago)
BB1296 ©
Image ID BB1295 - Comma - © Steven Cheshire
Comma male (imago)
BB1295 ©
There are 52 photographs of the Comma in our stock photo library.
View more photographs of the Comma as a thumbnail gallery or as a slideshow.
Aberrations and forms
There are 18 named aberrant forms of the Comma currently listed. Find out more about aberrants here.

ab. carbonaria - Verity 1916
ab. c-extinctum - Gillmer 1907
ab. delta-album - Joseph 1919
ab. dilutus - Frohawk 1938
ab. extincta - Rebel 1920
ab. g-album - Tutt 1896
ab. i-album - Tutt 1896
ab. imperfecta - Blachier 1908
ab. iota-album - Newnham 1894
ab. neole - Oliver 1937
ab. nigracastanea - Verity 1950
ab. o-album - Tutt 1896
ab. obscura - Closs 1916
ab. reichstettensis - Fettig 1893
ab. sagitta-album - Frohawk 1938
ab. suffusa - Frohawk 1938
ab. variegata - Tutt 1896
form. hutchinsoni - Robson 1881
Comma ab.reichstettensis