North American Butterflies and Moths List

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Butterflies of North America

Small Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis [Aglais] urticae)
JPG -- species photo

Small Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis urticae [Linnaeus])

Wing span: 1 15/16 - 2 3/8 inches (5 - 6 cm).

Identification: Upperside of forewing has alternating 4-sided black and yellow patches along the leading edge; hindwing has an irregular black patch.

Life history: In the afternoon, males perch on hillsides, banks of gulches, logs, or behind bushes to watch for females. Eggs are laid in large batches on the underside of host plant leaves. Young caterpillars feed together in a web, while older ones feed alone and make shelters of folded leaves tied with silk. Adults hibernate, sometimes in small groups.

Flight: One to three broods from March-October.

Caterpillar hosts: Nettles (Urticaceae family).

Adult food: Flower nectar, including that of butterfly bush (Buddleia).

Habitat: Gardens and weedy areas; migrates to high mountains.

Range: Eurasia from western Europe across Russia to the Pacific Coast. Has strayed twice to New York.

Conservation: Not required for rare stray.

The Nature Conservancy Global Rank: G5 - Demonstrably secure globally, though it may be quite rare in parts of its range, especially at the periphery.

Management needs: None reported.


Opler, P. A. and V. Malikul. 1992. A field guide to eastern butterflies. Peterson 
     field guide #4. Houghton-Mifflin Co., Boston. 396 pages, 48 color plates.

Author: Jane M. Struttmann

Small Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis [Aglais] urticae)
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