Today seemed like a good day to go insect hunting. The sun was out, the sky was blue and, for a change, it was warm. As the back garden seemed mainly to have flies in it and little else (other than a rather lovely toad) of interest, I put my boots on and we went for a walk along some of our bee transect.
However, we hadn’t even got as far as the old railway track before the butterflies were out showing themselves. And, to be fair, the front garden had a couple of bees (red-tailed and tree bee) as well as a basking small tortoiseshell.
We walked for a mile or two, and saw butterflies in many of the sections we went along, although, noticeably, not in the newer housing sections – good job as they probably would have starved. There are four, possibly five, butterflies that overwinter as adults – the jury is out on the red admiral which normal migrates over. The definite four are Brimstone, Comma, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock and all of these were out in abundance, sometimes a couple on the same flower. Dandelions seemed to be the flower of choice for the small torts, peacocks were a bit more interested in the willows and flowering cherries whilst the commas were mainly on viburnum tinus. As for the brimstones, they were just dashing about like mad things.
So, I took lots of photos, had a big smile on my face, saw some bees and discovered that in contrast to the rest of them, commas have white legs.
On the upper side of their wings commas are a beautiful bright orange, but underneath they look like an old dried up leaf – move along birdies, nothing to eat here, type of leaf – a dull, brown, raggedy old leaf. This is in fact the only butterfly with such jaggedy wings, although they are perfectly symmetrical in shape. However, they are named for the small, white, comma shaped mark on the underside of the wing. I suppose it is better than being called a dried up old leaf butterfly.
As usual, I only saw single specimens of these, as they are one of the few spring butterflies that isn’t often seen in any groups with others of its kind.