Red admiral Vanessa atalanta


Best time to see: Apr to mid Oct

Key facts

An unmistakable large butterfly, vividly marked in red, black and white, and a regular visitor to gardens

Habitat: almost anywhere in Britain but especially where there is some shelter and plenty of flowers

Common and widespread throughout Britain and Ireland

Recognition

Velvet black upperwings with a scarlet band and white patches; wingspan up to 72 mm

Males establish territories along warm edges such as hedgerows and patrol these daily

Preoccupied with feeding in late summer, both from flowers and from rotting fruit

Lifecycle

Migrates from the Mediterranean in spring, some returning in the autumn to hibernate; few survive our winters

Eggs, pale green at first but darkening, are laid singly on stinging nettles and occasionally on hop plants

Caterpillars, with a yellow band along each side, feed on nettle, hidden in a tent of folded leaves

  • Main photo
  • caterpillar

Photo © Tony Gunton

Photo © David Corke