Comma - Herts & Middx Butterfly Conservation
Comma 2017 - Bob Clift Comma 2009 - Dave Miller


Polygonia c-album

Widespread and common

Comma branch distribution

Distribution and Status

The Comma is widely distributed in the two counties but it appears to be absent in a few spots in arable north-east Hertfordshire. Since the 1980s there has been a slight increase both in terms of range and abundance. There seems to be some positive correlation between winter rainfall and abundance; rainfall for the winter in the year before (Palmer et al.), for example, winter 2007-8 for total counts in 2009

Habitat Requirements

More likely to be seen in open wooded areas and hedgerows in the spring but are more regularly found in gardens to feed on nectar and rotting fruit in late summer and the autumn

Larval Foodplants

Common Nettle Urtica dioica, Wych Elm Ulmus glabra, English Elm Ulmus procera, Hop Humulus lupulus and Currants Ribes spp. Hazel Corylus avellana (Clarke)

Adult Food Sources

Buddleia Buddleja davidii, Common Michaelmas Daisy Aster x salignus, Iceplant Sedum spectabile

Behaviour/Observation notes

Males establish territories on woodland rides and hedgerows, and often perch for long periods on a favourite twig or leaf. In the spring, the butterfly sometimes feeds on willow flowers. In the summer and autumn, individuals due to enter hibernation are more sedentary but will occasionally visit gardens to feed on flowers and fruit like blackberries. Animal faeces and carcasses may attract the Comma too

Comma branch phenology

Life History

The Comma produces two generations a year. Emergence from hibernation usually starts in March and the butterfly is on the wing until the end of April. The quicker developing larvae resulting from the first generation will produce a second generation in late June and July of the hutchinsoni form which have paler wings than the normal form. The slower developing larvae will however, produce the normal form in late July and early August. The female hutchinsoni form will also lay eggs and produce a new brood of the normal form in late August and September. By November, adults will go into hibernation. Eggs are laid singly towards the edge of a leaf of the foodplant. Larvae feed on the leaves and look like bird droppings when mature. The pupa is suspended attached to the foodplant or surrounding vegetation

Further information

Photo gallery
Branch Annual Report (2022)
UK distribution map
Full list of larval hostplants (Nymphalidae)
Stevenage butterflies - additional notes


Clarke, Peter J.(2018), Comma larva feeding on Hazel, Atropos, number 60, 2017
Palmer, G., Hill, J.K., Brereton, T.M., Brooks, D.R., Chapman, J.R., Fox, R., Oliver, T.H. and Thomas, C.D. (2015), Individualistic sensitivities and exposure to climate change explain variation in species' distribution and abundance changes


Copyright Butterfly Conservation © 2024 Hertfordshire & Middlesex Branch
Privacy and Copyright Statement and Cookie Policy Statement
Butterfly Conservation
Company limited by guarantee, registered in England (2206468)
Registered Office: Manor Yard, East Lulworth, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 5QP. Tel: 01929 400 209
Charity registered in England & Wales (254937) and in Scotland (SCO39268). VAT No. GB 991 2771 89