50 - 56mm
The Small Tortoiseshell often appears quite large, especially when flying in strong sunlight which enhances its dark orange colouring. The upper side of the wings are handsomely marked with broad patterned bands of reddish-orange and brown near the body. There are dark brown segments on the leading edge of the wings as well as some yellow and white patches. The main distinguishing feature is the blue crescents surrounded by black on the outer edges of the wings. The undersides are a camouflaged pattern of pale brown and buff-yellow.
They emerge early from hibernation and can be seen very early in spring. Their offspring (first generation adults) will be on the wing in June, and the second generation will be seen in late August and early September. They tend to start looking for a place to hibernate quite early, although in good weather they can be seen flying well into October.
It is greatly attracted to Buddleia in towns and cities and can be seen swarming over warmly sheltered bushes; they also favour Michaelmas Daisies and Sedum in gardens, and Marjoram in the wild. They also visit rotting fruit such as apples and blackberries and enjoy the blossoms of most of the thistle family.