Have you seen the comeback kid?
WILDLIFE lovers are being asked to head to canals and riversides this summer to chart the astonishing progress of the comeback kid of the butterfly world.
The Comma has experienced an extraordinary 138 per cent increase in population over the past 40 years, despite being rare just a century ago.
At the turn of the 20th century the Comma, with its distinctive ragged- edged wings, was restricted to a few counties in the Welsh borders and south- east England.
But just 100 years later, the comeback Comma has become a butterfly success story, spreading north 250 miles since the 1970s throughout England, Wales and the Isle of Man into southern and eastern Scotland.
Scientists believe a combination of climate change and the Comma’s increased use of nettle as a caterpillar food plant may be behind its expansion in range.
As part of this year’s Big Butterfly Count, Butterfly Conservation and the Canal and River Trust are asking people to look out for and record Commas on canals and riversides.
Although found in a wide variety of habitats, adult Commas can be seen feeding on bramble, thistles and knapweed along rivers and canals, and their caterpillars feed upon nettles and hops in the same areas.
In the past decade, the seemingly unstoppable expansion of the Comma has experienced a bump with poor years in 2012 and 2016.
The Big Butterfly Count is the world’s largest butterfly survey, which encourages people to spot and record 18 species of common butterflies and two day-flying moths during three weeks of high summer across the UK.
Results from the Big Butterfly Count will help track the ongoing spread of the Comma and could shed more light onto the extraordinary long-term population fluctuations of this beautiful butterfly. The count runs to August 6.
Taking part in the count is easy: find a sunny spot and spend 15 minutes counting the butterflies you see and then submit sightings online at www. bigbutterflycount.org or via the free Big Butterfly Count app.
The Comma was once rare but has seen a resurgence in its numbers.