Red Admiral Butterfly - Western Isles - Hebrides Insects

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly- Balallan - Lewis - Outer Hebrides

Red Admiral Butterfly - Western Isles
Vanessa atalanta

The Red Admiral butterflies are frequent visitors throughout the British Isles This butterfly is unmistakable, with velvety black wings intersected by striking red bands. The species seen here are mainly visitors from Europe , strikingly pretty butterflies.

This butterfly is mainly a migrant, although there are sightings in the first few months of the year sometimes of young which mean that many consider it now to be a resident. This resident population is only be a small fraction of the population seen here as most are migrants


Its name is derived from the 18th century when it was known as "admirable". It has Brown/black wings with red bands and white spots near the tips of forewings. Undersides dark and mottled. This large black butterfly, with a flash of vivid orange-red across its forewings and around the edge of its rear wings and a splatter of white spots towards its wing-tip

The caterpillars of the red admiral feed on Common Nettles. The Red Admiral caterpillar has spiky extensions on its body that deter most birds, except the cuckoo. They are also vulnerable to attack by wasps and flies.

As far as can be ascertained Red Admirals, do not hibernate. i.e. they don’t enter a long dormant stage as Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and others do. They seem to simply roost on days when the weather isny very good.

Butterfly Overview - Red Admiral Butterfly
Latin name
Vanessa atalanta

Not declining
The Red Admiral This large black butterfly with a flash of vivid orange-red across its forewings and around the edge of its rear wings and a splatter of white spots towards its wing-tipsIts. The Red Admirals bold coloration makes it easily recognizable, whether settled or in flight: no other British butterfly has a similar distinctive combination of black, white and red

Size Wing Span Range (male to female): 67-72mm

The Red Admiral butterfly can be seen in almost any habitat from seashores to town centres and from valleys to mountaintops. It is one of the most familiar garden butterflies, and is commonest around woods, orchards, hedgerows and parklands where there are places to shelter as well as an abundance of flowers, nettles and rotting fruit
Red Admirals feed mainly on flower nectar. and also on nettles and clover in the Spring and Summer, as well as on common flowers such as buddleia, Michaelmas daisies, and ice plants. They particularly likes daisies of the family Asteraceae because each flower contains a high concentration of nectar. The Red Admiral also feeds on ivy flowers and the juice of rotting fruit such as apples, which it shares with wasps.

May to September
Once fully grown, the red admiral caterpillars move to a hidden spot on the plant where they shed their skins and spin a cocoon (chrysalis) with gold-colored markings. Eggs are laid singly on the upperside of leaves of young stinging nettles – or, occasionally, on related plants such as small nettle and on hops – and take about a week to hatch.

The caterpillar feeds on the leaves and lives in a tent that it makes by spinning them together with its silk. These shelters can be found in July and early September. The caterpillar feeds for about three weeks and then forms a chrysalis suspended from the roof of the leaf tent. The adult butterfly subsequently emerges from this chrysalis. It only takes 4-7 days to go from egg to chrysalis and 2-3 weeks from chrysalis to pupation. During the time of pupation, the adult structures of the insect are formed

Misc. Info
The lifespan is about 10 months. They fly at 5-9 miles per hour.

  • Red admirals are quite people friendly, and they will often perch on heads, arms or shoulders. Some farmers don’t like them because the caterpillars can eat hops and other crops.

  • Red admiral butterflies fly at night as well as during the day. Their natural enemies include many species of birds, bats, wasps, spiders and large insects.

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