The comma butterfly - a masterpiece of natural design

David Chapman

Writer and photographer, David Chapman, introduces us to this masterpiece of natural design

With its bright orange, frilly wings the comma butterfly is one of the most attractive species to visit our gardens in the summer. It is particularly appealing for two reasons, one its shape and the other its colour.

When the comma spreads its wings to bask in the sun it reveals a beautiful combination of orange and brown markings a little reminiscent of the fritillary butterfly family. Look carefully at the comma’s wings and you will see that not only is it colourful but that it also has an intricate outline.

It isn’t immediately obvious why this butterfly should have evolved such a sculpted shape but when its wings are closed all is revealed. The dark brown of it’s under wing combined with this unusual shape helps the comma appear nothing more than a dead leaf; a fantastic piece of deception and camouflage.

Look closely at the butterfly’s under wing and you will see the comma-shaped white mark in the centre of its hind wing which is the reason for its common name.

Commas will come to the garden to feed on nectar-rich plants; buddleia and verbena are two that work well for us. Despite us having a nettle patch I have never seen any commas egg-laying in our garden; if you aren’t keen on growing nettles, and I can understand that, then try hops, currants, sallow or elm, all of which are food plants of the comma’s caterpillars.

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