Awakening of the Scarce Tortoiseshell


Today, I wanted to dedicate my lunch break again to get into the greenery. After recently spotting the first butterfly this spring, I was hungry for more. Like yesterday, I only took a 5 minutes walk to my favorite spot.

Despite of the weather conditions, with heavy wind and only 6 degrees Celsius, I got lucky again. This time a Scarce Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis xanthomelas) appeared out of the blue. After flying for some time the butterfly was finally willing to take a rest on the ground.

The Scarce Tortoiseshell used to be a rare visitor in Finland. However, since the mass migration of the species in 2012 it seems it has settled for good in the region. Many sightings of this species have been reported in the last couple days, a good sign there will also be caterpillars around later this spring or early summer. To get the chance to raise caterpillars of this rather large butterfly is definitely one of my season targets.

Unfortunately, the weather forecast predicted snow and cold weather for the weekend. This will force the early individuals back to hibernation for another moment.

Related photos

5 thoughts on “Awakening of the Scarce Tortoiseshell

    • Unfortunately the next 10 days are predicted to be cold and close to the freezing point. However, the recent sightings were a really beautiful sign showing how close spring and summer are. Looking forward to finding the first caterpillars as well 😉

    • Hi Ian

      It would be amazing if I could record this as a sighting of polychloros. I’ve determined this specimen as xanthomelas so far because of the rather white spot (the outer one) on the upper wing and the light brown legs (see photo with direct sun on the 1st leg). However, I’m definitely not 100% sure. Due to the invasion of xanthomelas in 2013, which also made it temporarily the most spotted species in early 2014 in some parts of Finland, I assumed this one would be no exception.

  1. I am by no means certain which of the 2 species it is, polychloros or xanthomelas, never having seen either. Concerning the various reports in Britain in 2014 of Yellow-legged or Scarce
    Tortoiseshell Nymphalis xanthomelas in 2014, see,
    which strongly indicates that one reported on 3rd and 4th July at Dungeness, Kent, as this species was actually the Large Tortoiseshell Nymphalis polychloros. A link is given in this to although this only seems to show 2013 sightings; neither this nor, which does cover July 2014, mention Large Tortoiseshell or Yellow-legged Tortoiseshell.

    listing the diagnostic identification features of LT and YLT. According
    below, both LTG and YLTs differ from Small Tortoiseshell in having a
    yellow rather than a white patch near the forewing upperside wing-tip
    and the hindwing uppersides are mainly orange near the body whereas in
    Small Tortoiseshell this is mainly dark brown. Speaking for myself, the
    photo labelled in this link as Yellow-legged Tortoiseshell looks to
    have a white apical patch, though mainly orange on the hindwings near
    the abdomen. One of the commentators on the bird forum above indicates
    however that it was decided that because of a WHITE patch that the
    Dungeness specimen was a Yellow-legged Tortoiseshell; however it is also stated
    that it can be white or yellowish-brown in Large Tortoiseshell.

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