Small tortoiseshell butterfly

Save the small tortoiseshell butterfly

A dash of colour flutters by...

Striking orange and black wings adorned with crystal gems: the small tortoiseshell butterfly is easily recognisable. Dancing from flower to flower they were once abundant in gardens from the first bloom of new life until the leaves began to fall. Their treasure is a human’s weed - the caterpillars gobble down nettles, while the butterflies lap up nectar from wildflowers pollinating plants along the way.

A real nomad, able to live anywhere from mountain top to valley bottom, the small tortoiseshell butterfly can be found almost everywhere in Britain. Despite this versatility, numbers of the small tortoiseshell butterfly have dropped dramatically over the last decade.

The large tortoiseshell butterfly is already extinct across Britain. It’s smaller relative could soon follow.

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(c) L Maiden

We're helping butterflies across Yorkshire

Kiplingcotes Chalk Pit nature reserve is a riot of colour in summer with clouds of butterflies fluttering amongst the mosaic of wildflowers. We're proud to have restored this rare gem in the Yorkshire countryside. 

We protect nature reserves across Yorkshire spanning 3,000 hectares and, together with partners, we enrich farmland, school fields and other areas to grow more wildflowers for butterflies.

We teach future environmental leaders and inspire everyone to nurture wildlife, ensuring that we are protecting wild places and encouraging people to fill their gardens with beautiful wildflowers, providing the nectar small tortoiseshell butterflies need.

But their future is far from certain

Every spring, fewer and fewer orange wings return to grace our gardens and nature reserves.

The population of the once common and widespread small tortoiseshell has collapsed by 75% since the 1970s.

Just like its cousin, the now extinct large tortoiseshell butterfly, the small tortoiseshell cannot adapt fast enough to the changing climate. Summers are drier and flowers less rich in nectar, while farmlands have far fewer wild areas. Gardens are increasingly cleansed of nettles and wildflowers and warmer weather brings new threats like parasitic flies.

We must not let the small tortoiseshell suffer the same fate as the large.
Help protect them now.

Save the small tortoiseshell butterfly


Small Tortoiseshell © Matthew Christou 2019

Without our help, the future for butterflies is uncertain. Your gift today could make sure there is always a flower open in Yorkshire.

You can make a difference

Within living memory, stretches of Yorkshire were once blooming with wildflowers and clouds of butterflies. We want to make this a reality for everyone once again.

By restoring wildflower meadows, ensuring our nature reserves are bursting with nectar rich plants, and encouraging councils, farmers, schools and gardeners to let parts of their land grow wild, we can colour in swathes of the Yorkshire landscape and provide a lifeline to these airborne acrobats.

Together we can secure the future of this fancy flyer.

Donate now