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It is found throughout temperate Europe, Asia Minor, Central Asia, Siberia, China, Mongolia, Korea and Japan. There are a few records from New York City which, however, are believed to be of introduced insects.
- A. u. urticae (Linnaeus, 1758) Europe, W.Siberia - Altai
- A. u. polaris (Staudinger, 1871) North Europe, Siberia, Russian Far East
- A. u. turcica (Staudinger, 1871) South Europe, Caucasus, Transcaucasia, Kopet Dagh, Middle Asia
- A. u. baicalensis (Kleinschmidt, 1929) Sayan, Transbaikalia
- A. u. eximia (Sheljuzhko, 1919) Amur, Ussuri
- A. u. stoetzneri (Kleinschmidt, 1929) Szechuan
- A. u. kansuensis (Kleinschmidt, 1940) North-West China
- A. u. chinensis Leech, 1893 China Japan Korea
- A. u. connexa (Butler, ) South Ussuri, South Sakhalin, Kuriles, Japan
The Corsican Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais ichnusa Hübner, 1819) looks very similar; whether it is a subspecies or a distinct species is yet to be determined. Nymphalis xanthomelas and Nymphalis l-album are also similar in appearance.
Once among the most common butterflies, in Europe and temperate Asia temperate, this butterfly is in very strong and very rapid decline, at least in Western Europe. This decline cannot be explained by the decline of its host plant, because the latter (nettle) is on the contrary very present and even enjoys the general eutrophication of the environment. The chrysalis is sometimes eaten by wasps, but these are also in strong regression.The effect of other phenomena are still poorly understood (environmental degradation, air pollution, contamination by pesticides). Scientific evidence shows that the summer drought is a cause of declining populations, because larvae grow normally on drenched leaves (but hatchlings were even rarer the wet summers of 2007 and 2008). However, before the year 2000, according to data from an English Butterfly monitoring program, there was a good correlation between reproductive success, the abundance of populations of this species and the host plant moisture stress. From 1976 to 1995, the butterfly had more success in summers that were cool and wet at the beginning of summer than when it is was hot and dry. This butterfly may then be sensitive to global warming.
Occupies a wide range of natural and semi-natural (gardens, urban parks, groves) habitats - excepting dense forest - up to more than 3 000 m above sea level.This is a species often found in gardens.
The adult is striking, with its dark body and red and yellow wings, which have a row of blue dots around the rear edge. However the underwings are dull, which helps to conceal stationary or hibernating individuals. When threatened, resting individuals rapidly open their wings, presenting the dramatic display of colours. This can frighten away young or inexperienced birds.
Life cycle 
The caterpillars feed on stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) and small nettle, Urtica urens as do those of several Nymphalid butterflies. Adults feed on nectar. The species has one of the longest seasons of any Eurasian butterfly, extending from early spring to late autumn. Adults overwinter in hibernation, emerging on the first warm sunny days of the year to mate and breed. In southern parts of the range there may be two broods each year, but northern insects are inhibited by long summer daylength from breeding a second time. 
U.K and Ireland 
The butterfly is abundant in most areas of the United Kingdom and Ireland. However numbers often vary yearly. Its commonness may often depend on the status of the common wasp in that particular season, since the wasp is known to feed on the Tortoiseshell's pupae.
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- Martin Stevens (2005). "The role of eyespots as anti-predator mechanisms, principally demonstrated in the Lepidoptera". Biological Reviews 80 (4): 573–588. doi:10.1017/S1464793105006810. PMID 16221330.
- E. Pollard and TJ Yates (1993) Monitoring butterflies for ecology and conservation. Chapman & Hall. ISBN 0 412 63460 0