Na­ture Trail

Bray People - - NEWS - WITH JIM HUR­LEY

‘FÉILEACHÁN 2013’ is a re­port com­piled by David Nash, or­gan­iser of the na­tional but­ter­fly record­ing scheme, and pro­duced by the Dublin Nat­u­ral­ists’ Field Club. The re­port sum­marises but­ter­fly re­ports for last year from around the coun­try.

One of the in­ter­est­ing an­nounce­ments in the re­cent re­port is that there is now very strong ev­i­dence to sup­port the view that the Comma, once re­garded as a va­grant, is nat­u­ralised in Ire­land. The south-east is presently its strong­hold and it ap­pears to be spread­ing na­tion­wide.

The but­ter­fly is so named as it has a prom­i­nent white mark on its un­der­wing shaped like a comma. Its other no­table fea­ture is the scal­loped mar­gins of its hind wings. It can look some­what like a tat­tered and ragged-winged ver­sion the very com­mon Small Tor­toise­shell so there is a strong pos­si­bil­ity that its ar­rival here went un-no­ticed by many people.

It was first recorded by El­iz­a­beth Keogh when she spotted three in­di­vid­u­als in Raven Wood, Co Wex­ford, in 2000. Since then there were spo­radic re­ports cul­mi­nat­ing last year in 36 sight­ings in coun­ties Car­low, Dublin, Kilkenny, Meath, Water­ford, West­meath, Wex­ford and Wick­low.

The Comma is wide­spread in Eng­land and Wales and is in the process of colonis­ing Scot­land. The range of the species ex­tends south­wards to North Africa. It oc­curs through­out Europe and Asia and stretches east­wards as far as Ja­pan.

How it got to Ire­land is un­known; it is as­sumed that ei­ther im­mi­grant adults may have made the flight nat­u­rally borne along by a strong easterly winds or that eggs or cater­pil­lars were ac­ci­den­tally in­tro­duced on im­ported fruit bushes or young trees.

In Bri­tain adult fe­males lay eggs on sev­eral plants in­clud­ing Com­mon Net­tle, Elm and Cur­rant and the cater­pil­lars feed on these plants when the eggs hatch. Comma eggs and cater­pil­lars have not been recorded in Ire­land yet so ev­i­dence of proof of breed­ing is awaited.

Records of the hand­some Comma are re­quested for the record­ing scheme es­pe­cially pho­to­graphs of the un­der­wing show­ing the de­ci­sive comma mark. Tat­tered and ragged­winged Small Tor­toise­shells de­mand closer ex­am­i­na­tion this com­ing sum­mer. Need­less to say, pic­tures and de­tails of eggs and cater­pil­lars would, of course, be a first.

As days be­come warmer, adults should be emerg­ing from hi­ber­na­tion very soon and for­ag­ing for nec­tar in gar­dens, along coun­try lanes and in wood­land. For de­tails of David Nash’s record­ing scheme, how to sub­mit records and all you ever wanted to know about Ir­ish but­ter­flies see www.but­ter­fly­ire­

The Comma is a re­cent ad­di­tion to Ire­land’s but­ter­fly fauna

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