Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Day 239 - Tremendously Beautiful Tortoiseshell Butterflies

Small Tortoiseshell ( Aglais urticae )
Hey everyone today's Day 239 and, as it's Summer, I thought I would cover something that usually comes out around this time. But before I do this, I just want to say 'sorry about the heatwave' to anybody that's living in England especially people down South as it is thought to get up to 35*C in London. The sad thing is where I am there's a weather warning as the temperature maximum is 26*C, and it's Sports Day tomorrow!

Anyway, on with today's post. Small Tortoiseshells butterflies usually come out around this time but I haven't actually seen many yet so I was lucky to see this one recently and grab some shots. I love butterflies in general and last year my Grandad actually bought me a Painted Lady growing kit. It had 5 caterpillars in it and, over the Spring, I successfully raised them and set all 5 of them free! There's a bit more about this in my Painted Lady post.

So, here are the Small Tortoiseshell facts:

  • Above I said that the usually come out this time of the year but not always. The high temperature is what wakes them.
All this heat should ensure lots are emerging
  • This means that they might come out of their hibernation on the first days of January or the middle of September. With the previous weather I have had up here, the heatwave should entice them out of their sleep.
  • They have a wingspan of 45-55mm in Males and 52-62mm and each wing has an orange backdrop with a black outline, at the top there is a line of black and peach. Right on the wing tip is a dab of white. 
  • Females lay their eggs on young stinging nettles, either the Common Nettle or the Small Nettle. 
  • This is because the larvae feed on these plants, the adults' main food source is nectar extracted from different plants. 
  • You will normally see the Tortoiseshell Butterfly throughout March to October, if the weather is right. The caterpillars are seen from May to August.
  • This is a long season as they often have two broods per year and explains why you often see hibernating Tortoiseshells.
Very successful but numbers are declining
  • They are usually found feeding on a variety of flowers in most 'flowery places' and in both urban and rural places.
  • They are a very successful butterfly in the UK and are very widespread being found all across the country including as far North of Shetland. 
  • Worryingly though there has been a decline in their numbers and this could be down to a fly who's larvae feed on the butterflys larvae. This fly Sturmia Bella,  is now more common due to global warming.
  • Their wings hold extremely good defence for them. When they are closed the look exactly like leaves, camouflaging them.
Here are some links to more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


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