Large Tortoiseshell - Nymphalis polychloros


The large tortoiseshell is now an extreme rarity in Britain - often considered extinct. But it is an elusive insect, not tied to just one wood or group of woods, and has the ability to persist at low levels. These two pictures were taken in Suffolk, near Woodbridge, in 1985, over 20 years after the last accepted previous record. The butterfly is fresh and does not appear to have immigrated. No breeders admitted releasing large tortoiseshells and it seems most probable it was indeed a native-born, wild butterfly.

Records of large tortoiseshells are , in reality, often of over-enthusiastically identified small tortoiseshells. If you get a good look, however, there should be no danger of confusion. The large tortoiseshell has 4 dark spots in the open orange of the forewing, beneath the cell. The small tortoiseshell has only 3.