I am no expert photographer, preferring to capture the moment than get a perfectly composed shot. The pictures on my blog are either taken with a compact Canon, a Panasonic Lumix FZ150 or on my phone.

Sunday 8 October 2023

Comma, Polygonia c-album

The number of Commas I have seen here has been increasing year on year. This year I haven't seen quite as many as I did last year, but it seems there may be more to come!

On 21 July I was distracted again, when I was working in my study, by a Comma butterfly flitting about on the nettles outside my window. I realised it was laying eggs, so made a mental note of where I had seen it and at lunchtime I checked out a particular nettle stem. There I found an egg in the centre of the underside of a leaf.

I picked the stem and kept it in a jar of water next to my desk to watch it develop.

On the 28th July I noticed it had hatched and there was a little black caterpillar, about 2mm long.

The caterpillar tended to be quite inactive and remain on its leaf, only moving once the leaf had more or less been completely eaten. I was hoping to be able to determine which instar it was as it grew, but I became completely confused! So, below are some pictures as it developed. In this one it is two days old.

Here it is 12 days old.

And here it is at 20 days old. Every time I moved the nettle in order to photograph the caterpillar it would contort.

And here it is at 21 days old.

When it was 29 days old it spun a silk pad on a leaf stem and hung straight down from it. Of course it curled up as soon as I tried to take a picture! It remained like this for a day.

On the 21st August it formed a lovely chrysalis, mostly dark brown with two golden spots.

Two weeks later on 4th September I noticed that the segments on the abdomen area of the chrysalis had started to stretch apart, so I thought the butterfly  would soon emerge.

I didn't expect it to emerge so soon, though. Half an hour later when I looked, there was a butterfly hanging there!

I took the stick that it was now on outside into the sun. The butterfly remained on the stick for a couple of hours, then flew off onto a fence post, where it remained until about 4pm before it flew off.

On the 13th of September I noticed another Comma had formed a chrysalis on the outside of my study window. As I write this, on the 7th October, it is still there. Yesterday I found a Comma caterpillar on a nettle, close to where I found the egg in July. It looks as though it is fully grown and about to pupate, but it seems really late in the season. It will be interesting to see when these two emerge and if there will be any more Commas flying this year.


  1. Hello Nick, :=)
    How exciting, and how fortunate for you that the butterflies lay their eggs outside your large study window where you have a good view of the the butterflies.Great photography of the development of the Comma. I must try to find some Nettles!
    Thank you once more for the ID of the butterfly on the Piracantha.
    Best wishes

    1. Thank you Sonjia. It is lovely being able to watch the butterflies laying eggs and seeing the caterpillars and chrysalises just outside the window. There are still several Red Admiral and Comma chrysalises in the nettles, despite quite a few nights of frosts.

  2. great diary of comma progress and ace photos!
    I've never seen a comma caterpillar.

    1. Thank you Peter. There were a lot of Comma caterpillars around this year. I have only previously found two. One advantage of the Pine Marten eating our hens I suppose is the lush growth of nettles in the old hen run. There are still a few Comma and Red Admiral chrysalises out there. I wonder if they will manage to emerge this year?

  3. Reading your blog is such a pleasure. I loved the progress of the comma's development. Here in my area commas tend to eat elm leaves, and they're quite abundant near the river.

    1. Thank you Guillermo. It was a fun butterfly to rear. It is interesting that they use Elm as a food plant there. In England they used to primarily lay eggs on Hops plants, but as Hops became less commonly grown they switched to Nettles and consequently have spread up to Scotland.

  4. Hi Nick :=)
    Thank you for the name of the plant I had forgotten the name of. Soon after I saw the small butterfly, it started to rain very heavily We have had stormy weather ever since, high velocity winds which moved my swinging seat several meters away. I haven't been able to check the Geranium leaves very often, and have never been able to find a caterpillar when I did. The birds are always searching for food inside the feeders, so it's more than likely that they ate whatever caterpillars that survived the stormy wet weather. I am going to post less often and visit less frequently as I get a lot of pain in my left knee, and have to undergo a total knee replacement surgery. I will see how I go on.
    All the best