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Nettle Tree Butterfly. Libythea celtis (Laicharting, 1782)

Diputación de Málaga

Nettle Tree Butterfly. Libythea celtis (Laicharting, 1782)

It is also known as the European Beak. Wingspan: From 3.5 to 4.4 cm.


Open wings: Brown with big orange spots and a whitish spot close to the front margin. All wings are sinuous, though forewings, which have an obvious protruding edge, are more prominent. The body and the base of the wings have greenish colour on them.

Closed wings: They are greyish and brownish mottled with dark colour. Sinuous margins are more prominent on the forewing, which has a sharp edge under the apex, and white spots which cannot always be seen. On the hindwing, there is a lobe on the front margin and a white, thin and long line in the middle of the wing. These butterflies have rather protruding sensory organs, palpi, which come out of the head between antennae.

Similar species

Their peculiar figure, whenever the butterfly has closed or open wings, and the long palpi make it difficult to be confused with any other species.

Biology and Habitat

Adult butterflies live several months, counting on only one generation a year. They spend most of summer, autumn, and almost all winter, hibernating in order to start reproducing at the end of winter and beginning of summer. A new generation emerges at the end of spring and beginning of summer. Therefore, there are two good periods for watching them: in March and April, when they are worn out or injured if they survive winter, and in June, when the new generation emerges.

They tend to scatter and migrate, so they can be seen in all kinds of habitats. However, they prefer forests and woods on the river bans, where their caterpillars' main foodplant, hackberry or nettle tree (Celtis australis) can be found. It can also be found around elm trees (Ulmus minor).

Distribution in the Great Path

Due to the great changes on the river banks, these butterflies, which must have been many in the past, are rare in Málaga.  Nevertheless, as nettle trees are of special interest for Andalusian laws, the tree has been preserved and planted on river banks and parks and gardens, so the butterfly species in question should increase in number unless the trees in urban areas are treated with biocide. The species can be seen along the GMP, but only close to the rivers and streams where nettle trees grow, and it is rather rare.  It does not exist on stages which go along the coast. As for the stages in the north of the province, it is scarcer, limited to some locations, or it does not exist on them. Nevertheless, due to their migratory character, they can appear at any stage where they have not been spotted yet.