Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae
Back To (Linnaeus (1758)
JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
Medium to large; wingspan, 50-55 mm.
Both sexes are a bright orange-red on their upper surfaces with dark bars across the leading edge of the forewings and darkly bordered, blue spots along the outer margins of both wings. There are three near-black spots on each forewing and the basal halves of the hind wings are similarly coloured. The undersides of the wings are a dull, dark, grey-brown colour basally with the outer half of the wings largely a pale, dirty cream-brown. There is a row of blue-grey spots bordering both under-wings forming an irregular band to the immediate inside of a dirty pale brown margin.
This butterfly wanders prolifically over a wide area and does not form colonies but is most likely to be found in the vicinity of its principal larval food plant, the Common Nettle, Urtica dioica. The Small Tortoiseshell over-winters as an adult and emerges from early March onwards before laying its eggs in late April and May. The first brood are on the wing in July and the second brood emerges in early September.Aassociated with highly modified grasslands, gardens and derelict, disturbed sites.The adult butterflies can be seen at any time of the year, even on the last days of December or first days of January if the temperature is high enough to wake them from hibernation. However, adults normally emerge from hibernation at the end of March and start of April. There are typically 2 broods each year, except in the north, where there is usually only a single brood. Whether single or double-brooded, the butterfly is a familiar sight in late summer as it takes nectar to build up essential fats in preparation for hibernation.
It can be found anywhere in the city particularly in the vicinity of nettles. It is commonly attracted to gardens seeking nectar from flowers and is one of the most common visitors to the Butterfly-bush, Buddleja davidii. In the open countryside it favours overgrown hedgerows and sheltered woodland edges, rides and glades. Adults are highly mobile, moving steadily across the countryside. Adults aggregate on nectar sources and clumps of foodplants. After spring emergence, males form territories around a patch of foodplant and chase any other adults seen. Territories will be abandoned if no female is encountered within c 90 minutes. When a female is found, a prolonged chase ensues, before mating . Nnew generation adults feed on nectar sources prior to entering hibernation. A wide range of flowers are used including many wild, garden and exotic species especially Buddleja Buddleja davidii, Michaelmas Daisies Aster spp. and Valerians Centranthus spp. The larval foodplants are nettles Urtica spp.