Species Of The Week Number 31: Small Tortoiseshell

The last two weeks have seen plenty of Butterflies in the Meanwood Valley including Small Whites, Commas, Orange Tips and Speckled Woods. The Small Tortoiseshell is one of the commonest butterflies in the UK and also emerges in early Spring.

Females lay eggs in May, and they become bright green caterpillars in a few days. Many butterflies and moths feed on very specific food plants and, in the case of the Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars, that plant is the stinging nettle - of which we handily have quite a few in Meanwood. They thrive best when nettles have high water content so dry periods (and global warming) are bad for them.

After passing through the caterpillar stage a pupae is formed which hangs from the underside of leaves for about 4 weeks until a new adult butterfly emerges. This new butterfly itself lays eggs which go on to emerge as a second brood in the Summer. It is these second-brood adults that then overwinter in sheds and outbuildings, even tolerating temperatures of -20, before starting the whole process over again the following Spring.

The Small Tortoiseshell's latin name is Aglais urticae. Aglais was one of the Three Graces, a daughter of Zeus admired for her beauty. Its cousin the Large Tortoiseshell also used to be widespread in the UK but is now effectively extinct here. The small is at risk as well, having declined by 75% since 1976 although numbers in the north are holding up a bit better.

We are hoping to see and photograph many butterflies on The Meanwood Road Project Spring Walk this Saturday (29th April) - where you can meet your neighbours and also have a go photographing wildlife with our new Macro lenses. Meet at the Farm cafe at 11am.

Publicado el 26 de abril de 2023 por clunym clunym


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