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Red admiral butterfly

Red admiral butterfly

Vanessa atalanta

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.


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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 does it eat?

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

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When will I see it?

Adults and caterpillars between May and October.

Where will I see it?

Feeding on a variety of flowers, basking in the sunshine. Found in most flowery places in urban and rural locations.


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