Red Admiral Butterfly

(Vanessa atalanta)

Red Admiral Butterfly

The range of Red Admiral Butterflies extends from northern Canada, throughout the United States, through Mexico, and as far south as Guatemala.

This butterfly is also found in Hawaii, Europe, Northern Africa, New Zealand, and in Asia as far east as Iran.

Poorly named, this butterfly is really a "Lady."


The characteristic coloration of the the Admiral Butterfly is a black hind-wing with a red-orange marginal band; the dorsal fore-wing is also black with white markings near the apex.

Red Admiral butterfly

These butterflies tend to have a brighter coloration and a larger body mass during the summer months than during the winter. The legs and eyes of Admirals tend to be hairy and the head is moderately large.

The wing span of this butterfly ranges between 1.75 and 3 inches.


Red Admirals are considered to be people-friendly butterflies that will approach and perch on human beings.

In regard to other butterflies of their species, however, the male butterflies are known to be territorial in order to find a mate.

Males generally claim an elliptically shaped area ranging between 4-13 m wide and 8-24 m long. To protect this area, the males will patrol their territorial boundaries up to thirty times an hour.

If an intruder enters their area, they attempt to drive them away by out-flying and out-maneuvering the intruding butterfly.

These Admirals tend to be fidgety and swift insects that rapidly change direction throughout the course of their flight.

The species appears to be most active throughout the spring and fall months, its flight time lasts from March until November.

Adults will hibernate throughout the winter months.


Red Admiral Butterflies tend to be found in moist environments such as marshes, woods, fields, yards and gardens.

These butterflies cannot stand extreme winter cold and are forced to migrate southward during the winter months to warmer climates.

During this migration they can be found in habitats ranging from subtropics to tundras.

Larvae and Hosts:

The female butterfly deposits her eggs on the upper surface of the leaves of the stinging nettle ( Urtica dioica ).

Red Admiral Larvae

After a couple of days a small larvae creeps out of the egg, and immediately begins to eat.

Planting "False nettle" in your gardens will attract them as well.

Like other insects, they have an exoskeleton, which means that their skin is strong and leathery and cannot grow with them. The old skin is therefore sloughed off and replaced by a roomier new skin.

The lives lives upon willows, poplars, and elms.

Immature larvae tend to live amongst the leaves of these trees, while more mature larvae will construct a nest of leaves and silk.

A mature larvae is cylindrical in shape and has branching spines arranged in rows lengthwise.

Flowers and Food:

Mature Admirals tend to feed on fermenting fruits, bird droppings, and sap from trees.

Butterflies are fond of nectaring at composite flowers, such as milkweed, aster, and alfalfa. coreopsis, coneflowers, phlox and a host of others.

They also enjoy a good wet spot. Be sure to offer water or a mud-puddle in your gardens.

Red Admiral and other Common Butterflies

About Butterflies

A Butterfly Friendly Yard

Create a Butterfly Garden

Butterfly Plants Native Flowers

Water for Your Butterflies and Other Wildlife

Share Your Passions, I am with "SBI"

Butterflies, Birds, Gardens and More.

For your weekly "Gardening For Wildlife" newsletter, sign up below.

Enter your E-mail Address
Enter your First Name (optional)

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Gardening For Wildlife.
Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.