Photo by John Atkinson
Red Admiral Butterfly
Common name: Red Admiral.
Scientific name: Vanessa Atalanta
Wingspan: 67 -72mm
Colour: Dark black-brown wings, each with an orange-red band. The fore-wing tips are black with white spots; the underside is orange, blue and white, while the hind-wings are camouflaged dark brown.
Lifespan: 10 Months
What they eat: Adults drink nectar from flowers: buddleia is a favourite. Feeds on rotting fruit in autumn. Caterpillars eat stinging nettles.
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. Adults and caterpillars can be seen between May and October.
Caterpillars are bristly and dark with a pale yellow stripe running down each side.