A Comma butterfly camouflaged against the seed heads of Creeping Thistle (Cirsium arvense) at Brandon Marsh Nature Reserve. © 2017 - 2019 Steven Cheshire.
The Comma is one of our most common and easily recognised butterflies. It can be found in a wide variety of habitats and regularly occurs in gardens, disused railway lines, brownfield sites and rough hedgerows and country lanes. It is most numerous in August and September when it can be easily observes feeding on ripening blackberries or taking nectar from a range of wild flowers.
The adult butterfly hibernates during the winter and is usually one of the first butterflies to be seen on the first sunny days of spring. The summer brood which appears in May and June are a deep orange/brown in colour and are known as form f. hutchinsoni.
Later broods and those overwintering as adults and reappearing in the spring are deeper/darker brown above while their underwing is a beautiful mix of metallic blues, greens, greys and browns or the more usual orange/brown.
The Comma is a relatively widespread butterfly in Warwickshire and is often encountered in gardens. It also frequents rough grassland, disused railway lines and other habitats where there are sheltered locations in full sun with plentiful larval foodplants within the vicinity. Prior to the 1840's, the Comma was only regularly seen on the Welsh borders and ware rarely recorded in Warwickshire. Its primary larval foodplant was hops (Humulus spp.), a crop widely grown in Herefordshire and Worcestershire. As the demands of the brewing industry changed, fewer hops were grown in these areas. The Comma responded by utilising a range of other larval foodplants such as English Elm (Ulmus minor) and Common Nettle (Urtica dioica). This allowed the species to extend its range and it now occurs across almost all the UK.
The larvae of the Comma feed on a range of foodplants including Common Nettle (Urtica dioica), Hops (Humulus spp.), English Elm (Ulmus procera) and Wych Elm (Ulmus glabra).
Comma butterflies are regular visitors to urban and suburban gardens in mid-summer where there are plentiful supplies of nectar. You can encourage them to breed in your garden by growing the ornamental Golden Hop (Humulus lupulus 'Aureus').
The Comma can be found throughout Warwickshire. It is a widespread species and can be numerous at times where suitable habitat allows.