top of page

Red Admiral

Common Name: Red Admiral.

Scientific Name: Vanessa Atalanta.

What to look for?  Red Admirals are smaller butterflies. Overall, they are dark brown. But look for their distinguishing orangish-red band around the center of their extended wings. Their black forewings are striking with white spots around the wing tip and with the distinctive orangish-red bands.  The hindwing is dark brown and has an orangish-red band near the wing margin. The underside of the forewing is grayish-brown with areas of blue and white and with a pinkish-red bar. The underside of the hindwing is grayish-brown with spots and other markings.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? Red Admiral butterflies are quite common and very easy to spot. They are present from April through November, but more active in summer. Look for them around your flower garden, ground cover and the pond’s wildflowers. The male Red Admiral is very territorial such that you may find it in the same location from day to day.

How big are they? The wingspan of the Red Admiral averages approximately two to three inches.

What are their flight patterns? The Red Admiral has a very erratic, but rapid flight style.

How else do they behave? The Red Admiral is known as a people-friendly butterfly and it often lands and perches on humans!

What’s for dinner? As caterpillars (larval stage), Red Admirals host on members of the nettle family (Urticaceae) of flowering plants. As adult butterflies, Red Admirals prefer to dine on tree sap and rotting fruit, which allows them to emerge in early spring before nectar flowers may be plentiful. They will nectar at common milkweed, red clover, aster, alfalfa, butterfly bush, and Shasta daisy, among others.

Where do they take up residence? The Red Admiral occurs in Europe, northern Africa, Eurasia, and from northern Canada through most of the U.S. and down to Mexico and Central America. Red Admirals can be found in most sunny places including moist fields, prairies or marshes. In urban areas, look for them in parks or along tree lined residential streets. Since they cannot survive the coldest of winters, most of North America must be recolonized each spring by southern migrants.

When and where do they breed and nest? Remember the lifecycle of a butterfly: (1) eggs, (2) larval state as caterpillar, (3) pupa state in chrysalis or cocoon, and (4) butterfly. The female Red Admiral lays greenish eggs on a host plant, usually a nettle. After approximately two weeks, the Red Admiral caterpillar encases itself inside a host plant's leaf by wrapping the leaf in silk. It then feeds on the leaf and remains in this larval state for two to four weeks. Next, the Red Admiral transforms into the pupa state, enclosed and protected by the chrysalis over the next few weeks. Finally, the Red Admiral emerges as a butterfly out of the pupa. It may hang from the pupa for several hours, until its wings are dry. In colder climates, the Red Admiral may have only one brood. In warmer climates, it may have as many as three broods.

Where do they migrate? The adult Red Admiral lives year-round in warmer climates, and it migrates in colder areas. In Guatemala and Mexico, they fly year-round. In the northern areas of their range, the next generation hibernates or overwinters in their pupa state as chrysalides. Others may migrate.

Do they make any interesting sounds? No.

Interesting Facts About the Red Admiral:

  • Once fully grown, Red Admirals only live for up to six months during the summer and up to nine months during the winter.

  • Red Admirals are quite people friendly, and they will often perch on heads, arms or shoulders.

  • Some farmers don’t like them because the caterpillars can eat hops and other crops.

  • Red Admiral butterflies fly at night as well as during the day.

  • Their natural enemies include many species of birds, bats, wasps, spiders and large insect.

For more information on the Red Admiral and sources of information used in this blog (these are the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Butterflies and Moths of North America, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Illinois Department of Natural Resources and University of Florida Entomology

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

bottom of page