Thursday, 22 September 2011

Punctuated wings

The Comma has a striking silhouette, easily the most raggedy of the UK's butterflies. This one obligingly posed in a way which strikingly shows its comma too. The dark backdrop to the underwing shows that it is one of the second brood which goes into hibernation fairly soon, although mild weather can wake them up to flutter about during the winter.

I think it must have hitched a lift into the Guardian's Leeds office (aka my shed) because I'd only just sat down when it appeared, fluttering so wildly at the window that I thought it must be a moth. Bit early to hibernate, I told it, capturing it neatly in my hand and bunging it out into the sunshine where it soared away.

The Comma is another butterfly success story which casts doubt on the regular prophesies of doom for the UK's limited number of species in the media. Its numbers dwindled in the early 20th century but it staged a sturdy comeback and is almost always around in our garden from the late spring to mid-autumn, provided the sun shines. Not for the first time, I recommend reading an excellent article about the Comma and a Victorian vicar's wife, Emma Hutchinson, in the newsletter of the West Midlands branch of the Butterfly Conservation Society. The magazine is called The Comma in her and the butterfly's honour.

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