Comma Nymphalidae

Polygonia c-album Linnaeus, 1758

Description: Wingspan 50-64 mm. Both wings are strongly scalloped. The uppersides are tawny-orange with black and brown spots and blotches. The undersides are intricately patterned in brown, grey and yellow-brown. There is a small silver spot in the shape of a comma in the centre of the hindwing. When the adult is hibernating this mark heightens the illusion of a dead leaf as it gives the impression of a hole. Females are larger than males and have a paler ground colour.

Similar Species: The Comma can be instantly recognised by wingshape alone which is unique amongst Irish butterflies.

Key Identification Features:

Sets:  male upperside male underside

Flight Period: The N. Irish records were in August.

Status: Very rare, reliably recorded in N. Ireland on two occasions, in 1997 and 1998. Both sightings were near Portaferry, Co. Down. There have only been two other Irish records in 2000 and 2001. This spate of recent records has lead to speculation the species could colonise Ireland. In Britain the Comma has spread into northern England since 1982 and has also been seen on the Isle of Man.

Ecology: The Comma is a non-colonial species of open woodland and hedgerows. Adults hibernate becoming active in March or April. Eggs are laid on sheltered patches of nettles. The lifecycle is complex but in general adults appear in July and these either overwinter or produce a second brood which flies in late August.

World Distribution: North Africa, most of Europe to central Scandinavia, and across Asia to Korea and Japan.

Bradley & Fletcher number: 1598 Agassiz number: 59.031

Additional information:

UK Butterflies account


 Thompson, R. S. & Nelson, B., 2003 (Oct 2). [In] The Butterflies and Moths of Northern Ireland