Thursday, 11 July 2013

Small tortoiseshell butterfly

I have seen small tortoiseshell butterflies in two separate places in the last couple of days.  They used to be one of our commonest but they have declined sharply in recent years.

This may be because of a parasitic fly which has spread to Britain with the change to a warmer climate.
When they perch, small tortoiseshells are harder to see because the underside of the wings is drabber - good camouflage - but look for the two black triangles on the front edge of the forewing.
Don't confuse the small tortoiseshell with the red admiral.  Torties are mostly orange with black and yellow markings on their forewings and tiny blue patches along the other wing edges. 
Red admirals are mainly black with scarlet markings in a sort of circle over both wings, and white blotches on the wing tips.

Both these butterflies lay their eggs on stinging nettles along with the comma and the peacock.

Small tortoiseshell caterpillars on a nettle leaf

Credit to for these photos.  Their website is brimfull of photos and interesting facts about butterflies.

And . . . I just went to the post office for some 1st class stamps and look what has been issued today!

             Comma,                 Orange tip,      Small copper,      Chalkhill blue,      Swallowtail 
        Purple emperor,       Marsh fritillary,       Brimstone,         Red admiral,     Marbled white
The ones in italics are a bit rarer but
the ones in bold have all been recorded at Filnore Woods.

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