Large Tortoiseshell

Nymphalis polychloros (Linnaeus, 1758)



A largish butterfly with orangey-brown upperside with black spots, and a dull dark-brown underside with a lighter submarginal band. Males and females are similar. The butterfly could be confused for a large dull Aglais urticae, which has a more contrasting underside, and a series of blue submarginal spots on the upperside. 

Habitat Requirements

Most frequently encounted in areas with mature tress.

Larval Foodplants

Vicia cordata, White Poplar Populus alba, Black Poplar Populus nigra, Aspen Populus tremula, White Willow Salix alba, Grey Willow Salix cinerea, Bitter Willow/Olive Willow/Hoary Willow/Rosemary Willow/Elaeagnus Willow Salix elaeagnos, Crack Willow Salix fragilis, Almond Willow/Almond-leaved Willow Salix triandra, Hawthorn Crateagus monogyna, Apple Malus domestica - introduced (= Malus pumila), Bird Cherry Prunus avium, Pear Pyrus communis (cultivated) Small-leaved Elm Ulmus minor. Dan Danahar has found fully grown larvae feeding on European Nettle Tree Celtis australis, in Old Perithia.


Adults are strong fliers and mostly observed in the canopies of trees. The butterfly is territorial and is rarely seen nectaring, instead it prefers to  bask on the ground and probe the soil or animal faeces with its proboscis for salts and nutrients. Females tend to oviposit on low growing host trees, often young saplings. The larvae are communal until fully grown, and frequently highly parasitised, (95%) of larvae maybe hosts. The best time to observe this butterfly is in the early spring or late autumn. The insect overwinters as an adult.

*The information provided in the tables below is based on verified sightings of the Large Tortoiseshell submitted via this website since 1st January 2021.

First and Last Sightings

Year First Last/latest # Days
2023 04/01/2023 04/11/2023 304 days
2022 22/03/2022 11/11/2022 234 days
2021 07/03/2021 12/10/2021 219 days

Number of Observations

Year Number of observations
2023 158
2022 20
2021 21
Grand Total 199

Distribution Map

Distribution maps for this species are currently unavailable.

Flight Times for the Large Tortoiseshell (2023)

The chart below shows flight data by month for 2023

Flight Times for the Large Tortoiseshell (All Data)

The chart below shows flight data by month since 1st January 2021


  • Vernacular/Common Name: Large Tortoiseshell
  • Family: Nymphalidae (Rafinesque, 1815)
  • Sub-family: Nymphalinae (Rafinesque, 1815)
  • Tribe: Nymphalini (Rafinesque, 1815)
  • Genus: Nymphalis (Kluk, 1780)
  • Species: polychloros (Linnaeus, 1758)


For a list of references, please see our bibliography page.