Wonderful Punctuation!

This is a Comma butterfly.

I am VERY excited as I have never seen one in my garden before. I don’t think I have seen one anywhere before, apart from on other people’s blogs. I have never seen any butterfly so early in my garden either; it is usually late summer before I get so much of a glimpse.  Even last year, when we had such a wonderful early spring, there were no butterflies to be seen until September.

So you can see why I was jumping about yesterday and running for my camera. I even felt the need to report it to our local Butterfly Conservation society. So far no reply – it is maybe not as special as I thought!

I believe the Comma was once quite rare in Scotland, but it is now spreading northwards, especially up the East coast. hence my viewing yesterday.

Early comma butterfly

Early comma butterfly

The Comma is a really pretty butterfly, easily identifiable by its ragged wing shapes. It is named because of the small white comma marks on the underside of its wings – unfortunately it didn’t stick around long enough for me to get a glimpse of these. Maybe it will be back today.

I felt a bit bad as I didn’t have many flowers it might have liked in the garden and it had to settle on an old wooden bird table.  Even the nettles are not up yet. I have been trying to find some Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’ plants that all butterflies seem to love, but so far with no success.

Comma on birdtable

Comma on bird table

Comma butterflies can appear in Spring and again in Summer. There are two distinct types, the ones emerging in Spring are more orange than the others. This one is likely to have overwintered as a butterfly – I wonder where it was hiding. The caterpillars like to eat hops, but if that is not available they will eat nettles or Elm. I have no hops, but I  do have a patch of nettles at the back of my border and I even have an Elm tree.  Perhaps I should plant some hops?

I have just had a look at hop growing and we certainly have some of the conditions here: cold winters and lots of water, but the sunlight might be a problem. However as I would be growing them for the butterflies rather than for the beer it might be possible. It sounds as if they can grow to twenty feet though so I would need to find a dwarf variety. Does anyone have any experience of growing hops?
I am rather lacking in a good high fence or wall in full sun, but will have to give it some thought.  I wonder if they would grow up and over the garage roof? Mind you if the butterflies up here have changed their diet, it would be a waste of time. A bit like all the Niger seeds that I bought for the Goldfinches who just ignore them and just eat the Sunflower seeds I put out for the other birds!

The sun is not out yet today, but I will still be taking a few walks around the garden – in the hope of catching another glimpse, especially underneath the wings.  Wish me luck!





20 thoughts on “Wonderful Punctuation!

  1. I’ve never seen a Comma so early in the year. We have plenty of them in the summer, I planted a golden hop and hoped they wouldn’t mind the colour change. I have mine growing over an arbour in a corner with a honeysuckle, so I don’t see why it shouln’t scramble over your garage roof! Keep us posted!

  2. How exciting Annette – and I have never knowingly seen a Comma before so I must remember to look out for those ragged wings! I was aware of a butterfly of sorts in the garden the other day, the first of the year, so that’s a good start.

      • By the time I turned my head it had gone – so I have no idea. The Golfer saw a Brimstone on the golf course yesterday – again something I have not seen.

        • They are a bit like that aren’t they. I think I saw the Comma earlier in the day, but it just flitted across the garden and out again. I was lucky I was out when it came back. It flew very fast. Don’t think I have seen a Brimstone either – must get out on the golf course again myself.

  3. That is early Annette, I’ve seen them here but not this early, the first to appear is usually the Peacock although this year I’ve already seen Cleopatras and one False Swallowtail.

    • We did have a really hot day on Sunday. My son got sunburnt! It must have woken up the butterfly. I don’t know the butterflies you mention, I will look them up.

  4. I’ ve never seen them so early. I have had Peacocks in the garden and I saw a Brimstone yesterday, but the Brimstones always appear in April
    If you send me your address I will send you a cutting of E. ‘ Bowles Mauve’. They root easily.

    • I was very surprised to see it yesterday. The hot weather must have woken it up!
      Thanks so much for the offer of the cutting, but I do have some small rooted cuttings from last year already – I was just wanting some larger plants for now. The plants I had didn’t survive the frost and were getting very leggy anyway. I will know in future to take cuttings every year. Actually one of my cuttings already has a flower so it might grow large enough for this year.

  5. What a delightful butterfly Annette. How fortunate for us that you were so quick with your camera.
    When I was a child my grandfather built for me a tall wooden swing up which my mother grew a hop plant. I recall she filled a cushion with dried hops to use against insomnia. The swing certainly wasn’t 20ft tall and the hop was a gorgeous plant. It had full sun though, and from what you said, that may have been what killed it in the end. I’d definitely consider growing one up an arch or perhaps even a wall.
    Anyway, I do appreciate good punctuation and will look out for commas in my east coast garden with great anticipation!

    • I am waiting for confirmation from North East Scotland Biological Records Centre (NESBReC) that I have got the identification correct. They only have one record of a sighting in Aberdeen from 2013, so I am very excited. I keep checking, but so far it hasn’t come back. I think I need to take a photo with something that has GPS on it for real proof that the photo was taken in Aberdeen. Do let me know if you see any in Edinburgh. Hop seeds are lovely – my mum used to use them in dried flower arrangement. I am very tempted to try one.

  6. I have never taken a sharp photo I would be pleased with of a butterfly. This one is great, and lucky you for having a garden. Make the best of it, Annette.

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