The Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae L.) is a colourful and well-known Eurasian butterfly in the family Nymphalidae and is often found in gardens. The caterpillars feed on stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) and small nettle, Urtica urens as do those of several Nymphalid butterflies. Also known in the UK as the King George butterfly.
The adult is striking, with its dark body and red and yellow wings, which have a row of blue dots around the rear edge. However the under wings are dull, which helps to conceal stationary or hibernating individuals. When threatened, resting individuals rapidly open their wings, presenting the dramatic display of colours. This can frighten away young or inexperienced birds.
The butterfly is abundant in most areas of the United Kingdom and Ireland. However numbers often vary yearly. Its commonness may often depend on the status of the common wasp in that particular season, since the wasp is known to feed on the Tortoiseshell’s pupae.
Once a very common sight on Budleia and Privett blooms these beautiful butterflies are now never seen in some areas of Britain.
- United Kingdom: Wet spring devastates butterfly population (independent.co.uk)
- Small White (mikehardisty.wordpress.com)
- Butterflies (gillianbrazier.wordpress.com)
- Country diary: My butterfly bush is not living up to its name (guardian.co.uk)
- Butterfly (africanaprincess.wordpress.com)