OF THE five species of butterfly that regularly hibernate (or six if we include the occasional painted lady) the comma is possibly the most interesting and fascinating, having a somewhat unusual life history.

The comma is a master of camouflage, spending the winter in the open, either in leaf litter or even exposed on a tree trunk.

Its ragged wings shape, especially the dark undersides, resemble a dead leaf rendering it almost invisible to predators.

Emerging from hibernation on the first warm March day, butterflies mate and lay eggs on nettles and hops.

The earliest caterpillars, which imitate bird droppings, pupate first and hatch into a large, bright orange, especially beautiful form, named ‘Hutchinsoni’ (pictured).

Caterpillars that complete their metamorphosis later develop into the normal standard smaller darker form of the comma.

Hutchinsoni commas lays eggs quickly and only live for about two weeks in mid-summer.

Surprisingly perhaps, their progeny are of the normal darker form and will join later butterflies when they all hibernate in September.

Bramble flowers are a major nectar source for commas, often joined by peacocks, red admirals and small tortoiseshells, creating a splendid colourful summer spectacle.

The title ‘Hutchinsoni’ is named after Emma Hutchinson who discovered the peculiar life history of the comma in the late nineteenth century.