Species of the Month - October 2011

Small Tortoiseshell

Aglais urticae

At this time of year Small Tortoiseshells are looking for somewhere to hibernate and may come in through the window or you may find them in an outbuilding.  You may even find them still feeding up on various flowers to see them through the winter.

If one of these butterflies hibernates in an unheated outbuilding it is best to let it remain there, but if it tries to hibernate in the house, it should be moved to an unheated shed or garage or a sheltered tree hole or similar.  If it's in a shed, make sure it has some way to get out in the Spring.

This butterfly has declined nationally in recent years.  Locally, numbers were very low in the early part of 2010 but the second generation recovered to some extent.  2011 has been a poor year locally for most butterflies so it's likely that there will be fewer Small Tortoiseshells than usual overwintering with us.  Any records are therefore of great interest.

One way to help this butterfly is to let a patch of nettles grow in your garden.  If you have an adult butterfly overwintering with you it may lay eggs on these nettles in the Spring and you can watch the caterpillars as they grow.  Another way to help them is to have late-blooming flowers in your garden.

Aglais urticae   Aglais urticae


Aglais urticae, hibernating adult
Small Tortoiseshell hibernating in a ceiling recess.  It left in early April.


Aglais urticae larvae
Young Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars on nettle.  These give rise to the late summer generation of butterflies which are the ones that hibernate.


Please send in your sightings using the form below.

Date of sighting 
Grid reference 
Name of finder 
Your name (if different) 
Email (not needed if I already know it!) 
Flowers visited if any 
Any other details, e.g did it appear to be looking for a hibernation site, or was it already hibernating? 


By filling in this form you agree that the information contained in this form may be collated and disseminated manually or electronically for environmental decision-making, education, research and other public benefit uses in accordance with the LNHG data access policy.  Your email address will not form part of the record and will not be passed on to anyone.

Carl Farmer
G Biological Records Manager

Sightings so far

Once again Tina is first with a sighting.  On Oct 1 she had one fly out of the garage and saw another on an apple tree.  Clumps of caterpillars were seen in her neighbour's garden earlier this year.

On 24 Oct one came in my window.  I released it into the unheated part of the building where one successfully hibernated last year - Carl

Note you can still send in records for past species of the month.  Here is the list of species we've had so far:

Sep 2011 - Fly Agaric
Aug 2011 - Grass of Parnassus
Jul 2011 - Golden-ringed Dragonfly
Jun 2011 - 7-spot Ladybird
May 2011 - Green Hairstreak
Apr 2011 - Townhall Clock

Mar 2011 - Frogspawn

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All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer except where stated