Today’s fascinating information on the once common, now less so Small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) is taken from Peter Eeles’s magnificent publication Life Cycles of British and Irish Butterflies (Pisces Publications, 2019). If you like butterflies and don’t have this book, you really should get it, as it’s jam-packed with amazing detail and fabulous photos.
In the section on the Small tortoiseshell, Eeles reports on the variety of names it has had over the centuries: the Lesser Tortoise-shell Butterfly (James Petiver, Musei Petiveriani, 1699); Small Tortoiseshell (Benjamin Wilkes, Twelve New Designs of English Butterflies, 1742); and Nettle tortoiseshell (William Lewin, Twelve Papilios of Great Britain, 1795).
Eeles also notes that, in Scotland, in the past, this lovely creature was called the Devil’s butterfly and the Witch’s butterfly, though he doesn’t explain how it got those unfortunate names.
This particular Small tortoiseshell was the highlight of yesterday’s exercise walk around Grangemoor Park (luckily, Cardiff’s parks are still open, though this is the only one in walking distance for me). It was a joy to see, as we don’t get a lot of these butterflies in my local area, and I was delighted when it settled in a couple of places so I could get some photos.