Ed. Note: The following arrived to a private email account of the editorial staff of WTB?
Subject: Comma Butterfly?
Location: Hampshire, England
August 2, 2016
Saw this lovely creature in Hampshire, England a few days ago.
Is it a Comma?
Entomologist Julian Donahue responds
That’s the right genus (Polygonia), but I’m not up to speed on British butterflies. Check out the U.K. group I suggested on Facebook.
As Julian indicated, your butterfly is in the same genus as the North American Eastern Comma, Polygonia comma, which you can read about on BugGuide. According to UK Butterflies, your Comma, Polygonia c-album, “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.”