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Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

Aglais urticae

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly, Small Tortoiseshell, Tortoiseshell Butterfly

A close up image of a small tortoise shell butterfly Aglais urticae perching on a yellow leaf

by bekky. All rights reserved

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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, so they tend not to be pests of garden plants.
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These butterflies are excellent garden pollinators.
Threatened by pesticide and herbicide use and habitat losses.


Adults: Newly emerged butterflies 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 undersides of the wings comprise an array of browns. This makes the perfect camouflage when this butterfly is resting in trees and on the ground. Caterpillars: 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. The caterpillars aggregate in numbers and spin webs of dense silk around the food plant. Pupae: The cocoons can be found hanging from stems and branches within deep vegetation. It looks like a shiny, malformed, dead leaf. Egg: Laid in batches of 20- 90. They're found beneath the leaves of nettles, the larval food plant.











Europe and some parts of Asia and Russia.

Biological treatment

We don't advise removing these from the garden ecosystem. They provide pollination services for garden plants and food for wasps, spiders and birds.

Chemical treatment

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


Annual Nettle

Urtica urens

Stinging Nettle

Urtica dioica

A close up of some purple Buddleja flowers in a garden


Buddleja spp.

Blue Bugle

Ajuga reptans

A close up of some purple Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve' flowers and green foliage

Wallflower 'Bowles's Mauve'

Erysimum 'Bowles's Mauve'

Goat Willow

Salix caprea

Lady's Smock

Cardamine pratensis

Purple Coneflower

Echinacea purpurea

English Lavender

Lavandula angustifolia

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