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small tortoiseshell   <>   aglais urticae   <>   ruán beag 


  © DHardiman 2004    

Habitat: The Small Tortoiseshell is widespread throughout Ireland. 
There are two broods annually.
Larval Food Plant: Common Nettle Urtica dioica
Flight Time:
                 March to April or later (after hibernation)
                 July to early August
                 Mid-August to mid-September 
Hibernation:   Overwinters as an adult butterfly.  
Small Tortoiseshell butterflies seen between November   
and February have probably been disturbed from their 
hibernation sites.
This butterfly,  because of its affinity for nectar from the  Butterfly Bush Buddleia and Michelmas Daisy Aster and 
its hibernation habits, is one of Ireland's best recognised species.


   Small Tortoiseshell 
                                                © DHardiman 2004



                                                                              Life Cycle of  the Small tortoiseshell


The greenish globular eggs are laid in clusters of about 80 on the underside of a growing leaf of the Common
Nettle Urtica dioica. They can be found from March onwards but more commonly in April/May and July/August.

The larvae hatch in 7-21 days. The mature larvae vary in colour from yellow to black, most frequently yellow,
closely covered in black speckling and short hairs. There is a black mediodorsal line bordered by clear 
ground colour, and two  broken bands of yellow along each side. Spiracles are black and ringed with yellow.  
The early instars remain together and spin a tent by drawing together a few leaves at the top of the plant
with silk  into which they retreat to live, moult and feed. They move on to form a new retreat on fresh nettle 
leaves as each leafy tent is consumed.  
By the final instar in May/June (1st brood), and July/August (2nd brood) they become more solitary. 
The larval stage takes approximately 4 weeks after which the larvae enter the pupal stage.

  Early instars       © DHardiman  2004 

The pupa hangs vertically downwards from vegetation or walls or under ledges about a metre above ground,
suspended from a silken pad by its cremasteral hooks.

        © DHardiman  2004 


The adult emerges in 2-4 weeks.  The second brood of Butterflies, that emerges from pupation from mid-August 
onwards, enter hibernation between mid-September and November.  They overwinter in sheds, attics
and in houses and resume activity the following Spring.  Mating takes place after overwintering and eggs are
laid from March onwards.

© DHardiman  2004 



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 [ SmallTortoiseshell ] Peacock ] Pearl-borderedFritillary ] DarkGreenFritillary ] Silver-washedFritillary ] MarshFritillary ] 

Hesperidae ] Pieridae ] Lycaenidae ] Nymphalidae ] Satyridae ] Migrants ] .