Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Small Tortoiseshell

The Small Tortoiseshell, Aglais urticae, is one of the commonest of our summer butterflies. Individuals often hibernate in sheds and sometimes houses when warmth can bring them from their slumbers to fly around. These early wakers are very vulnerable to cold weather. Last year was a very bad year for Small Tortoiseshells and I saw very few in the garden, perhaps this year will be better. There was just one today, along with a few each of Red Admirals and Painted Ladies as well as the first Gatekeeper of the year. The male Small Tortoiseshell sets up a temporary territory where he waits for a female to come along so that they can produce the next generation. If one doesn't show up after an hour or so he will move on and try again at a new location. Once mated she will lay her eggs on young nettles, which is why I always try to find space for a few nettle plants in the garden. This is the fourth species of the family Nymphalidae that has been in the garden this year, after Red Admiral, Painted Lady, and Peacock and that leaves just the Comma to come. The other members of this family are more specialist in their choice of habitat and don't appear in my garden, although Kent is a stronghold for one, the Heath Fritillary.

1 comment:

Steve said...

Tony, it's good to see that at least one Small Tortoiseshell is survived - it seems that last year's terrible year has had a knock-on effect, and I've seen none so far.

They say that 'Imitation is the best form of flattery' - so I hope you won't be upset that I've set up a Kingsdwon version of your blog - still learning from my mistakes so it's not gone public, and any comments, corrections or criticisms would be welcomed.