Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
The Red Admiral butterfly previously known as the red admirable is a medium sized species indigenous to the temperate parts North Africa, Europe, the Americas, Caribbean islands and Asia. Though it mostly inhabits the warmer regions, this butterfly moves northward during spring and even in autumn.
- Family: Nymphalidae
- Genus: Vanessa
- Scientific Name: Vanessa atalanta
Description and Identification
The caterpillars have a black body with light yellow or white speckles.
The color of the pupa is bright scarlet and black in high and low temperatures respectively. Hence, in summer they are bright and in winter the butterflies are heavily pigmented.
Sexual Dimorphism: Present
Color and Appearance: When the wings are opened, the dorsal part of the forewings and outer surface of its hind wings has orange bands. The distal point of its forewings has white spots while the ventral side is brown with black, red and white patches. The entire hind wing has a brown marbled pattern. When the wings are closed, the marbled pattern is prominent with bands of red, black and white.
Average Wingspan: 4.4 – 6.4 cm (1.75 -2.50 inches)
Flight Pattern: Steady and erratic while males are more adept in flight than the females.
Eggs and Larva
The eggs are round and pale green, often laid upon false nettle. The larva is one inch long having a black body with white spots on it.
|Distribution||North Africa, Asia, Europe, North and Central America, Caribbean and Hawaiian islands|
|Habitat||Parks, marshes, yards, moist fields, moist woods, seeps|
|Lifespan of Adults||Two weeks on an average|
|Host Plants||Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica); False nettle (Boehmeria cylindrical); as well as plants belonging to the Cannabaceae, and Compositae family|
|Adult Diet||Sap oozing from trees, bird droppings, fermenting fruits, as well as nectar of flowering plants like milkweed, aster, red clove, alfalfa|
Did You Know
- Noted botanist, Carl Linnaeus, was the first to describe it in 1758, in his 10th edition of Systema Naturae.
- This species features in many of Vladimir Nabokov’s works like Pale Fire; King, Queen Knave; Speak, Memory
- From a spiritual point of view, a red admiral butterfly means a powerful spirit or soul while certain cultures have superstitious belief and consider it to be a symbol of danger or evil.
- The caterpillars appear to be toxic or painful but may be handled safely.