Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Small Tortoiseshell/Nældens Takvinge

Aglais urticae

Small Tortoiseshell, here from a church yard in Himmerland

Small tortoise shell is one of the first butterflies we see each spring . It is Denmark's National butterfly, and it is wellknown and common all over the country. The frequency  changes from year to year dependent on migrations.

Small tortoiseshell, Underside

Small tortoiseshell (wing span 46-53 mm)  is easy to recognize with its clear colours and the white spot on the front wing. The variation is modest, but the three black spots on the front wing might be small or miss completely in very rare cases. Some rare specimen have white-yellowish colours instead of the usual clear brick red. The flying period is from last June until October in one or two generations and again in March-June after overwintering.Its habitat is everywhere, where nettle grows, especially at buildings - and the larvae's fodder-plant is nettle. (Urtica).

Small tortoiseshell and a bumble bee
The butterfly roams about and is seen everywhere. It overwinters as a grown-up butterfly in hollow trees, caves, cellars and not at least in un-heated rooms in houses. The flight is quick and whirring, and the  mating couple are often seen flying close together high up in a spirale flight. The males are territorial, since thy from their resting places fly up against all disturbing insects or other passing animals. Both sexes seek to various flowers, not at least to Hemp agrimony, Thistle and Field scabious or to Asters, Buddleias and flowering herbs in gardens. The tortoiseshell is also attracted to fermenting windfalls.

Flying tortoiseshell  and Buddleia
photo: grethe bachmann 


Teresa Evangeline said...

These are beautiful photographs. I so love your posts on butterflies. Thank You.

Thyra said...

Thank you Teresa. I haven't seen my first butterfly yet this year. It has been cold and they are late! Maybe next week-end!

Grethe ´)