Small tortoiseshell Aglais urticae


Best time to see: Apr to mid Oct

Key facts

Familiar orange-red butterfly with black patches and blue border

Habitat: almost anywhere, especially where there are plenty of flowers and nettles

Widespread resident, common across the whole of Britain and Europe

Recognition

Upperwings orange-red with black patches and a dark border with blue crescents; underside like tree bark

Flies freely across the countryside and even out to sea, sometimes reaching France

Often seen basking on bramble with wings open; feeds on a wide range of flowers; wingspan 5 cm or so

Lifecycle

Glassy green eggs laid in clusters on nettles in May and again in July

Caterpillars are spiny, yellow and black, and scatter to pupate on vegetation or on walls

Adults hibernate over winter in garages, outhouses, cool rooms and churches, emerging in early spring

  • Main photo
  • caterpillar

Photo © Tony Gunton

Photo © David Corke