5000 species world wide, 14 species in U.K. This family includes the Admirals, Emperors, Fritillaries, Tortoiseshells, Peacock, and Commas. In the adults the first pair of legs is not used for walking, and the caterpillars are usually spiny. All U. K. Nymphalidae pupate by hanging head downwards. All in the family are strikingly marked and colourful.
Wingspan ranges from 36 - 78 mm. Many have a characteristic flight pattern of long, low loops over a straight line.
Polygonia c-album - common name -the comma
On the right is the comma, the name comes from the white comma mark on the underside of its rear wing. It is common in Europe, but in the U. K. is found mainly in the south, in woods, lanes and gardens.
The adult wingspan is 4.4 - 4.8 cm, and the males and females are the same except that the females usually have duller undersides to their wings.
The flight is rapid with a lot of gliding. The adults fly in June/July and there is a second generation flying in August which hibernate in the autumn. When these emerge in the late spring they mate.
The irregular wing outline and the pattern of the undersides make the adult resemble a dead leaf. It is widespread throughout Europe, but confined to the southern half of the UK. The adult lives mainly in meadows but visits gardens. They hibernate as adults on exposed branches or among dead leaves.
Eggs are laid singly or in small groups on the upper surface of the leaves of the food plant in May and again in July/August.
The eggs hatch after 2 - 3 weeks and the caterpillars feed singly in small webs for approximately 6 weeks.
The caterpillar is black, spiny, with orange bands and a large white patch down the rear half of its back. This white patch makes it look rather like a bird dropping, so serves as camouflage.
The larval food plants include hop and nettle. The caterpillars can reach a length of 3.5 cm. Then they pupate suspended from the food plant. Adults emerge 2 - 3 weeks later.