Have you seen the come­back kid?

The Oban Times - - Outdoors -

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.

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