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California Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis californica)


California Tortoiseshell

The California tortoiseshell belonging to the Nymphalidae family is indigenous to California as well as different parts in the United States.

Scientific Classification

  • Family: Nymphalidae
  • Genus: Nymphalis
  • Scientific Name: Nymphalis californica


Description and Identification


California Tortoiseshell Butterfly Caterpillar

They are small in appearance with a black, spiny body.


California Tortoiseshell Butterfly Pupa

The pupa is greyish-violet in color, resembling a leaf, often twitching on getting disturbed.


Sexual Dimorphism: Present

Color and Appearance: When the wings are opened the top of it is orange with large black spots. When the wings are closed it has a grayish and mottled brown appearance similar to a dead leaf. The males have hairier forelegs than females.

California Tortoiseshell Butterfly
Nymphalis Californica

Average Wingspan: 3.2-7cm (1 1⁄4–​2 3⁄4 inc)

Flight Pattern: Fast and irregular


Though sufficient detail is unavailable regarding their eggs, they are deposited in small clusters on the leaves’ undersides and hatched in 4 to 5 days.

Quick Facts

Distribution British Colombia, Baja California Norte, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and also to New York, Michigan, Vermont and Pennsylvania, though rare.
Habitat Near chapparal growth, brush areas, woodland, and clearings as well as edges of forests
Host Plants Manzanita flowers
Adult Diet Flower nectar

Did You Know

  • This species are known to go through population explosions, causing them to migrate to different regions.
  • The raven is known to be the commonest prey of the California Tortoiseshell butterfly.
California Tortoiseshell Butterfly Pictures
California Tortoiseshell Butterfly Images
California Tortoiseshell Butterflies


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Scientific Classification

  • Family: Nymphalidae
  • Genus: Nymphalis
  • Scientific Name: Nymphalis californica
Published by Avatar on June 30, 2019.
Last Updated: April 14, 2023. ✅ Verified by: Butterfly Team