Comma Butterfly (Polygonia c-album) – ID Guide

The Comma is one of our most distinctive species, its butchered wings give a unique appearance that differs from any other species of butterfly in Ireland.

A fresh-looking Comma showing the distinctive “ragged” or “butchered” wings – Oisín Duffy

The comma is not a widespread species and is generally confined to the south east of Ireland (North-East also), although as its numbers are also bolstered from migrants throughout the year, it could potentially show up at any part of the country. I have seen this species in a number of habitats across the south east of Ireland, in particular coastal locations, grassland and woodland rides.

A butterfly at rest which does not look like any other species in Ireland due to its characteristic “butchered” wings – Oisín Duffy

The most distinctive feature of this species (as mentioned above) is the butchered or ragged wings. Both forewings and hindwings are orange with dark brown markings. The edge of the butchered wings are light brown in colour. The underside of the species is remarkably like a leaf, mainly brown toned colours, however on fresh individuals, you can often see a metallic green colour. There is a small white “comma” or “c” shaped marking on the underside of the wing as well, which makes identification very easy.

The “C” or “Comma” shaped marking on the underside of the wing is a distinctive identification feature. You can also see green tinges on the underside of this fresh individual – Oisín Duffy

The species could be misidentified in flight for a small tortoiseshell, however unlike the small tortoiseshell, the comma does not have any blue markings around the margins of its wings.


Cheat Sheet (TLDR Version):

Name: Comma (Polygonia c-album)

Larval Foodplant: Nettle (Urtica diocia).

Distribution: Not widespread, mainly found in the South East of the country, but has the potential to show up anywhere.

When: Generally from April to September.

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About Oisín Duffy 23 Articles
Oisín Duffy is an ecologist and environmental educator with a special interest in the Flora of Ireland and Pollinators. He is the photographer and co-author of Biodiversity Ireland’s identification guide on “Trees and Shrubs”. He has a BA from NUIG and an MSc from NUIG and UL. Oisín is an active biological recorder, and current Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) Vice-county recorder for East Donegal (H34) and participates in a number of recording schemes run by the National Biodiversity Data Centre (NBDC), Bat Conservation Ireland (BCI) and others. In 2016, Oisín worked in conjunction with the National Biodiversity Data Centre to develop a plant monitoring scheme for Ireland. During the Summer of 2016, he toured Ireland giving workshops for the Irish Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. His most recent work has been as a photographer and author of the “Wildflowers in South Armagh”.

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