Tortoiseshell Butterfly

We have around fifty nine species of butterflies in the UK. If you are lucky there are about twenty different butterflies you might attract to your garden.

We used to have two species of tortoiseshell butterflies, the large and the small. Unfortunately the large tortoiseshell is now extinct in the UK. The small tortoiseshell butterfly (Aglais urticae) is the one you might find in your garden.

Butterflies like this beautiful tortoiseshell, have long tongues and feed on nectar rich flowers Image: Jean Vernon

Look closely at the patterns on its wings. It has the most beautiful soft blue pockets of colour along its lower wing edges. It is one of our more common butterflies and often an early butterfly in our spring gardens.

This butterfly needs nettles for it’s caterpillars. The female lays her eggs on healthy stinging nettles, usually growing in a sunny spot, between May and July. Look out for the caterpillars in midsummer and avoid cutting back nettles until the caterpillars have fed and pupated.

The adults feed on nectar rich garden flowers, often alighting on swaths of lavender flowers on a warm and sunny day.

Keep your garden plants well-watered to ensure there is a good nectar flow for all your pollinating insects.

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