Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

Aglais urticae

Small Tortoiseshell, Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly, Tortoiseshell Butterfly

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A close up shot of a Aglais urticae small tortoiseshell butterfly to scale against a black background
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A widespread butterfly and frequent garden visiter, the small tortoiseshell butterfly is an attractive orange insect. Not to be confused with a painted lady and red admiral, you can distinguish them from the latter from the blue checkering that borders the wings. These butterflies can be seen in most habitats, drinking nectar from an array of flowers, buddleia especially! They preferably use common nettle as a food plant for their larvae.
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These butterflies are excellent garden pollinators.


Newly emerged adults are vividly orange, black and white. There are black and white splodges on the forewings, with three additional black spots. The hindwings have blue spots, or checkers, bordering the wing rears. The larvae are covered in fine hairs, or spines, making them considerably spikey. They're variable in colour, but generally, are black/grey with pale yellow speckling, sometimes possessing longitudinal stripes. Pupae, or cocoons, can be found hanging from stems and branches within deep vegetation. It looks like a shiny, malformed, dead leaf. Egg batches can vary from 20-90. They're found beneath the leaves of nettles, the larval food plant.











A common butterfly widespread across Europe and some parts of Asia and Russia.

Biological treatment

Butterflies are considered important pollinators. Unfortunately, the larvae, or caterpillars, can sometimes be pests in years where conditions are optimum for breeding. If in high abundance, caterpillars may be picked off garden plants using gloves and placed on another plant, or bird table.

Chemical treatment

It's not recommended to use pesticides on these butterflies.
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Knowledge and advice

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