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Butterfly Camouflage: A Labour of love

August 10th, 2014 by Michael Dyet

Hmmm, when a butterfly spreads its wings, can it be that the world as we perceive it suddenly changes?

Mother Nature has a few tricks up her sleeve to help her care for her children. The Comma family of butterflies is one of her more elegant achievements.


All of the Commas have a dead leaf pattern on the outside of their wings like this Eastern Comma. (They get their family name from the small, comma shaped white mark which is barely perceptible in this nondescript exterior.) Imagine seeing this against the bark of a tree or the dirt of a pathway. It is an unrivalled achievement in camouflage.

Now let’s look at four members of the Comma family when they relax and spread their wings.


This is the Eastern Comma with its wings unfolded. (Apologies for the poor photo. Eastern’s are notoriously skittish and avoid close contact.) This Eastern is an aging one whose colours are faded. But the contrast from the camouflage of the outside of the wings remains striking.


This handsome specimen is a Question Mark Comma – so named because the comma mark it bears has a small dot beneath it. It is elegance personified with its exquisitely scalloped, white-frosted wings and its earthy palette of orange, brown and black with a pale yellow spot band.

Now let’s move on to two of the more elusive members of the Comma family.


This is the Gray Comma. I can hear you thinking: Umm, it looks like the same butterfly to me. Part of the enjoyment of studying Commas is learning to recognize the subtle differences between them. A bit less chocolate brown on the hind wing with a slightly more prominent yellow spot band. Add in the more grayish exterior, with fine white striations, and the identification is made.


And finally, we have the Green Comma. It is almost indistinguishable from the Gray, particularly in an older and faded specimen like this one. But look closer and you will see the cut in the wings. On the outside of the wing, a few fine green spots are diagnostic although they are often not detectable.

The Comma butterflies are conclusive evidence that Mother Nature is a master in the art of camouflage. I like to think of Commas as metaphors for the fine brush strokes which she lovingly labours over to adorn and protect her beloved creatures.

We can unlock the code to this camouflage if we care to do so. But once we do, we are by default sworn to honour and protect her creations. We become the guardians of all that we are privileged to behold.

~ Michael Robert Dyet is the author of “Until the Deep Water Stills – An Internet-enhanced Novel” – double winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2009. Visit Michael’s website at or the novel online companion at

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Len Maxwell Aug 17, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    Fantastic pictures, Michael. The first was particularly stunning.

  • 2 Michael Dyet Aug 17, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    Thanks, Len.