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Large Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychloros)

On this page, we have made available all the information we have for this species

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Picture of Large Tortoiseshell
© Eddie John

The Large Tortoiseshell was once widespread in southern Britain but declined to extinction by the 1980s. It is a woodland butterfly whose larvae feed mainly on Elm (Ulmus) spp. It is still common in some parts of Europe, but declining in others. There continue to be sporadic records in Britain, but these are largely considered to be of specimens released from reared stock rather than immigrants. (For further details on this species see

Family : Nymphalidae

Status : Insufficient information

Status details : Insufficient information

Log collated index plot

blank LCI plot - no data available

This chart shows the index of abundance (LCI = Log Collated Index) over time. It shows fluctuations in populations from year to year, and is scaled so that the average index over the whole series is equal to 2 (horizontal line). For greater detail about how this index is derived, click on the green question mark above.

Trend description :
This rare migrant has been recorded on eleven different UKBMS transects since monitoring began. There is insufficient data to calculate accurate trends in abundance but this species does seem to appearing more and more regularly on transects.

This map shows the distribution between 1995 and 2016. Data is derived from the Butterflies for the New Millenium dataset via the NBN Gateway

Phenology plot
Species Phenology Plot

Phenology plot

This chart shows the average number of butterflies seen on transects between Arpil and October across all sites (fitted values from a Generalised Additive Model). The blue line gives average counts over the full BMS series (1976 to date) and the red line gives the average for the last year.

blank abundance map - no data available


This map shows symbols for the mean abundance at transect sites, with the colour of the symbol reflecting the level of abundance. Means are over all years. Grey background squares are the occupied cells as shown by the Butterflies for the New Millenium over the previous ten year period.


In total, Large Tortoiseshell has been recorded from 1 transects in the Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. Of these, annual indices of abundance have been calculated from 5 sites, with an average index of 0 individuals per site.

For 0 of these sites, Large Tortoiseshell has been recorded well enough to calculate annual indices of abundance in more years, allowing trends to be calculated.

In 2018, 0 individuals were recorded from 0 sites, producing annual indices at 0 of these.

The UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme is organized and funded by Butterfly Conservation (BC), the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC). The UKBMS is indebted to all volunteers who contribute data to the scheme.