Find (and ID) the lepidopteran

Reader John sent me this photo, which he thinks is a moth. When I show you the “reveal” in an hour or so (this one isn’t hard), you’ll see why I think it’s a butterfly. But anyway, it’s in the UK, so if you want to take a stab at it, be my guest. I was also unaware that any leipidopterans played “dead.”

John’s notes:

Saw this wonderful little creature the other day on a park bench in Cambridge, UK.

I thought it was a leaf until I got closer.  After taking a photo (or few) of the little guy, I blew him off the seat at which point he played dead, fluttering to the ground and lying there for quite a few min.  I wouldn’t have spotted him if I hadn’t known he was there…

I have no idea what this insect is called although it looked like a moth to if your readers do know I’d love to find out.



  1. Posted February 23, 2014 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Yep butterfly it is. In the US some members of this group are called “question marks” and “commas” because of the punctuation-like silvery markings on the hindwings. They are satyrid butterflies.

  2. Diana MacPherson
    Posted February 23, 2014 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    I can see the butterfly but I can’t ID it. However, from asking google, it seems playing dead is not unusual with butterflies. I’ve never seen one do this though.

  3. Posted February 23, 2014 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Oh, this one’s easy.

    It’s right behind Hili’s left ear.



  4. Posted February 23, 2014 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Just ask Vladimir.

  5. mordacious1
    Posted February 23, 2014 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    It’s just to the right of the Nightjar…

  6. Alex Shuffell
    Posted February 23, 2014 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    It looks like a Comma butterfly, I can’t be any more detailed than that. I think it’s the big thing that looks like a dead leaf in the centre of the image, we are looking at the underside of it’s wing, it’s upside down with it’s head and antennae pointing down.

    It may not be playing dead, it could just be dying, unhealthy or just a bit nonchalant.

    • Posted February 23, 2014 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      If it’s a Comma, it’s a good thing this one is from Cambridge. Had it been from Oxford, who would give a fuck?



      • Merilee
        Posted February 23, 2014 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

        …certainly not the honey badger…

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted February 23, 2014 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

        Ha ha, an oxford comma joke was somewhere in my subconscious when I saw the butterfly name too.

  7. Kasia
    Posted February 23, 2014 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    I’d say it’s the Comma (Polygonia c-album).

  8. John
    Posted February 23, 2014 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Although I’m in Florida I just happen to have a copy of The Millennium Atlas of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland and that book [Book! To heck with internet searches!] tells me it is Polygonia c-album, the Comma Butterfly. It looks like it is the only angle-winged butterfly in Britain, although there are several angle-wing species in North America.

    As for playing dead, I’ve never seen that in butterflies myself but I have seen several caterpillars that try that trick.

  9. Posted February 23, 2014 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    All things comma butterfly here –
    I wonder how that comma mark evolved?

  10. mbee
    Posted February 23, 2014 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Most definitley a Comma butterfly. Lying on it’s side so we see the underside of it’s wing. The Comma symbol is a dead giveaway.

    As for playing dead it could have been cold and when disturbed had not ‘warmed up’ enough to fly so playing dead was a defensive strategy.
    Most butterflies need to warm up to ‘operating temperature’ before they can fly. Hence the exercising of wings in the sunshine before they fly in the morning.

  11. Steve Clark
    Posted February 23, 2014 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Polygonia c-album ssp. c-album f. c-album
    It looks like a female in the picture. Was the picture taken in the UK?

    In the mid 19th c. in England and Wales, it was in severe decline possibly due to a reduction in farming Hops, a key larval food plant at the time. By mid 20th c. it had made a comeback, preferring common nettle as the larval food plant.

    The UK should brew more beer!

  12. Posted February 24, 2014 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    John here, fascinating stuff – now that you mention the comma it just jumps out at you.

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