So far this year, we have had seven reports of a Large Tortoiseshell in Tout Quarry on Portland.

To date we are sure there are two individual butterflies. The Large Tortoiseshell is considered extinct in this country: webs of its caterpillars have not been recorded for over 60 years.

Orange buttefly with dark markings and some blue spots on the hindwings

Large Tortoiseshell. Photo: Andy Martin

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Our Records Officer, Bill Shreeves, thinks their origin is uncertain. They could be adults which bred here last year and managed to hibernate overwinter as adults, they might be unauthorised releases, or they might be migrants, though the species is not thought to migrate.

Our best years for sightings of this butterfly: 2007-2009, boasted sightings as early as 1 January, and they bred to produce more sightings in July of those years.

Orange butterfly with dark markings, with its wings spread

Large Tortoiseshell. Photo: Mike Gibbons

Orange butterfly with black, yellow and blue markings

Small Tortoiseshell. Photo: Richard Gillingham

As well as being larger than the Small Tortoiseshell, the Large Tortoiseshell is it is generally duller, does not have the white marks on the leading edge of the forewings and almost never has blue spots along the edge of the forewings.

Some Painted Ladies are also being seen. If you encounter either (or any other butterfly) please record them via our online recording form.