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Large Tortoiseshell

Photograph by: 
Portland Bird Observatory

No longer a breeding species in Britain and the source of any specimens found is always uncertain!



  • Diary Note: 2nd March 2020 - Large tortoiseshell emergence

    Post date: Tuesday, 3 March, 2020 - 08:26

    The two large tortoiseshell butterflies at Church Ope Cove on Portland were certainly a surprise! Believed to have been extinct in the British Isles since the Dutch elm disease outbreak in the 1970's it seems, and I am not fully aware of the details, that there was a small release of specimens on Portland a couple of years ago and, obviously, at least one was a pregnant female. Any find of large tortoiseshell is going to be a surprise but there are a couple of other factors that make this all the more remarkable. The first is that, although they are a hibernating species in log piles and hollow trees in winter, they hardly ever survive until the following spring which is why they have not re-established themselves here. Secondly, previous records seem to have been from Tout Quarry and the Fortuneswell area on the west of Portland whereas Church Ope is on the east coast, not that far away but a new location. So, the question still to be answered is; is the large tortoiseshell recolonising Portland? If it is I expect that it is unlikely to spread to the 'mainland' but we will have to wait and see how it fairs. 

Common Name Large Tortoiseshell
Scientific Name Nymphalis polychloros
Species Group Nymphalid Butterflies Admirals and Fritillaries
Interest Level
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Identification Notes
Primary Habitat
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Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Nymphalid Butterflies Admirals and Fritillaries