Small Tortoiseshell

  • Small Tortoiseshell (upperwing)
    Small Tortoiseshell (upperwing)
  • Small Tortoiseshell (underwing)
    Small Tortoiseshell (underwing)
  • Small Tortoiseshell (eggs)
    Small Tortoiseshell (eggs)
  • Small Tortoiseshell (caterpillar)
    Small Tortoiseshell (caterpillar)
  • Small Tortoiseshell (pupa)
    Small Tortoiseshell (pupa)
  • Video play iconSmall Tortoiseshell (upperwing)
    Small Tortoiseshell (video)
  • Small Tortoiseshell (upperwing)
    Small Tortoiseshell (upperwing)
  • Small Tortoiseshell (underwing)
    Small Tortoiseshell (underwing)
  • Small Tortoiseshell (eggs)
    Small Tortoiseshell (eggs)
  • Small Tortoiseshell (caterpillar)
    Small Tortoiseshell (caterpillar)
  • Small Tortoiseshell (pupa)
    Small Tortoiseshell (pupa)
  • Small Tortoiseshell (upperwing)
    Small Tortoiseshell (video)

Scientific name: Aglais urticae

Bright orange and black wings with white spot in forewing which separates it from the larger and much rarer Large Tortoiseshell.

Widespread throughout Britain and Ireland, commonly found in gardens. 

The Small Tortoiseshell is among the most well known butterflies in Britain and Ireland. The striking and attractive patterning, and its appearance at almost any time of the year in urban areas have made it a familiar species. It is one of the first butterflies to be seen in spring and in the autumn it often visits garden flowers in large numbers.

The Small Tortoiseshell is one of our most widespread species and has shown little overall change in range.

Size and Family

  • Family – Nymphalids
  • Medium/Larged Sized 
  • Wing Span Range (male to female) - 50-56mm

Conservation status

  • UK BAP status: Not assessed                       
  • Butterfly Conservation priority: low but concern over recent decades                
  • European status: Not threatened

Caterpillar Foodplants

Common Nettle (Urtica dioica) and Small Nettle (U. urens) are used.

Distribution

  • Countries – England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland
  • Distribution Trend Since 1970’s = Britain: -3%

Habitat

A popular garden visitor that can be found in a wide variety of habitats. 

Factsheets

Similar species