The Comma is thought to have been a common species in the 18th century, but declined and became a great rarity between about 1850 and 1910. Thereafter numbers gradually recovered, and the butterfly can currently be regarded as a common species in southern Britain. In Hampshire and West Sussex for example, it is certainly more abundant than either the Peacock or the Small Tortoiseshell.
The butterfly gets its vernacular and species names from the C or comma-shaped silver mark on the underside of the hindwings. There are no similar species in Britain.
There are 2 generations of the Comma each year. In February or March the butterflies awaken from hibernation. Some of the progeny from eggs laid in April feed up quickly to produce the brightly marked hutchinsoni brood in early July. Others feed up more slowly and produce darker adults with more angular wings, which emerge in August. The progeny of the hutchinsoni brood feed up very quickly, producing more of the dark, angular adults, which emerge slightly later, in September. In late September or early October, the butterflies enter hibernation.