Red admiral butterfly

  • Scientific name: Vanessa atalanta
  • Type: Insects

Key information

Red admirals have dark black-brown wings, each with an orange-red band. The forewing tips are black with white spots; the underside is orange, blue and white, while the hindwings are camouflaged dark brown.

After hibernation, adults have a strong urge to fly northwards, bringing immigrants from the Continent throughout the summer. By mid-August they start to return south, leading to a build up in southern England in autumn.

During the summer females lay single eggs on the growing tips of nettles. After a week or so, the caterpillars hatch and each spins a tent around itself by fastening a young leaf double with silk. Four weeks later caterpillars pupate in a similar ‘tent’. Adults may hibernate in England, usually choosing an exposed site such as a tree trunk, and many perish.

Caterpillars are bristly and dark with a pale yellow stripe running down each side.

What they eat:

Adults drink nectar from flowers: buddleia is a favourite. Feeds on rotting fruit in autumn. Caterpillars eat stinging nettles.



Identifying features:

Natural habitats: Fence/wall Flower border Hanging basket Hedge Herb garden Meadow area Nettle patch Patio Shrub Window box

Where and when to see them

They can be found feeding on a variety of flowers, basking in the sunshine. Found in most flowery places in urban and rural locations.

Adults and caterpillars can be seen between May and October.

  • jan
  • feb
  • mar
  • apr
  • may
  • jun
  • jul
  • aug
  • sep
  • oct
  • nov
  • dec