Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

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Wing Span: 2 1/2 ( 64 mm )

Vanessa atalanta










Both sexes are velvety black with a conspicuous diagonal red band across the forewings and a similar red band around the rear margin of the hindwings. A number of prominent white patches occur towards the tips of the forewings, outside the red bands and a series of small black spots extend along the centre of the red bands on the hindwings. The undersides of the forewings mirror the colour-patterning of the upper sides with rose, rather than red, banding on a duller grey-brown to black ground colouration. The undersides of the hind wings have a similar ground colouration to that of the forewings but the red band of the upper surface is absent. There is a subtriangular white patch on the leading edge of the hindwing.

May be found anywhere in Britain and Ireland and in all habitat types.

Starting each spring and continuing through the summer there are northward migrations, which are variable in extent and timing, from North Africa and continental Europe. The immigrant females lay eggs and consequently there is an emergence of fresh butterflies, from about July onwards. They continue flying into October or November and are typically seen nectaring on garden buddleias or flowering Ivy and on rotting fruit.

There is an indication that numbers have increased in recent years and that overwintering has occurred in S of England.

Behaviour and life history

The Red Admiral is a strong flier but prefers to settle more around sheltered sites such as woodlands glades and edges, hedgerows and in gardens. It is essentially a migrant species which seldom survives the British winter. New populations migrate in from the continent each year from March/April onwards. Eggs are laid on the Common Nettle, Urtica dioica, shortly afterwards with the caterpillars pupating from July onwards

Where to look for it

Like the Peacock, Inachis io, the Red Admiral is likely to be found almost anywhere in the city where it particularly favours sheltered lanes, woodland glades, rides and margins, and sunny hedgerows. It is particularly attracted to the Butterfly-bush, Buddleja davidii, in late Summer.

Distribution and status

Common and widespread throughout the city.

Similar species

Its size and very distinctive red, white and black colour-patterning makes this species unmistakeable.


Larval Foodplants : Stinging Nettle, Hop