Small Tortoiseshells courting in February?

We have had two reports of pairs of Small Tortoiseshells showing what may be mating behaviour amazingly early in the year.

Mike Ridge described two as “pairing” on 24 February in Lyme Regis, while Mark Spencer reported he saw:

2 Small Tortoiseshells today [28 Feb] courting each other high up in the sun at 12.15 p.m. in a garden half way up Glenferness Avenue in Bournemouth

Lyn Pullen also saw two showing interest in each other on 9 March.


Tortoiseshells. Photo: Lyn Pullen

Dorset Branch Records Officer, Bill Shreeves said:

Small Tortoiseshells don’t usually mate until late in the afternoon. Once the male has found a possible mate he has to follow her all day through thick and thin in order to mate, but it may be if it is cold the process can be speeded up. Small Tortoiseshells flying high might be males jousting with each other rather than courtship.

Whatever they were doing, let’s hope we see lots of them this year!

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