Vanessa atalanta

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Red admiral
AD2009Aug01 Vanessa atalanta 01.jpg
Dorsal view
Red admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) underside 3.jpg
Ventral view
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Nymphalidae
Genus: Vanessa
Species: V. atalanta
Binomial name
Vanessa atalanta
(Linnaeus, 1758)
  • V. a. atalanta
  • V. a. rubria (Fruhstorfer, 1909)[1]
  • Papilio atalanta Linnaeus, 1758
  • Pyrameis ammiralis Godart, 1821
  • Pyrameis atalanta Godman & Salvin, [1882]
  • Vanessa atalanta Dyar, 1903[1]

Vanessa atalanta, the red admiral or red admirable,[2] is a well-known colourful butterfly, found in temperate Europe, Asia and North America. The red admiral has a 45–50 mm (1.8–2.0 in) wingspan.[3] The species is resident only in warmer areas, but migrates north in spring, and sometimes again in autumn.

This medium-sized butterfly is identified by its striking dark brown, red, and black wing pattern. More specifically, the dark wings possess orange bands that cross the forewings and on the outer edge of the hindwings; white spots on the dorsal forewings near the front margin; reddish bars on dorsal surface of all four wings. The caterpillar feeds on nettles, and the adult drinks from flowering plants like the Buddleia and overripe fruit.

In northern Europe, it is one of the last butterflies to be seen before winter sets in, often feeding on the flowers of ivy on sunny days. The red admiral is also known to hibernate,[4] re-emerging individuals showing prominently darker colourings than first-brood subjects. The butterfly also flies on sunny winter days, especially in southern Europe.

In North America, the red admiral generally has two broods from March through October. Most of North America must be recolonized each spring by southern migrants, but this species over-winters in south Texas.

The red admiral is the butterfly featured by Vladimir Nabokov, an amateur lepidopterist, in his novel Pale Fire.

Life cycle[edit]

Host plants[edit]

Plants of the nettle family (Urticaceae) including stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), tall wild nettle (U. d. gracilis), wood nettle (Laportea canadensis), false nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica), pellitory (Parietaria pennsylvanica), mamaki (Pipturus albidus), and possibly hops (Humulus).


Atalanta is a figure in Greek mythology, a strong yet feminine woman who faces obstacles and backlash for refusing to follow gender norms.



  1. ^ a b "Vanessa Fabricius, 1807" at Markku Savela's Lepidoptera and Some Other Life Forms
  2. ^ Oxford Living Dictionaries. red admirable. Oxford University Press. retrieved 30 March 2017
  3. ^ Shalaway, Scott (2004). Butterflies in the Backyard. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books. p. 38. ISBN 0-8117-2695-9. 
  4. ^ Scott, J. A. (1999). Hibernal diapause of North American Papilionoidea and Hesperioidea. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 18(3):171-200.

Further reading[edit]

  • Glassberg, Jeffrey Butterflies through Binoculars: The West (2001)
  • Guppy, Crispin S. and Shepard, Jon H. Butterflies of British Columbia (2001)
  • James, David G. and Nunnallee, David Life Histories of Cascadia Butterflies (2011)
  • Pelham, Jonathan Catalogue of the Butterflies of the United States and Canada (2008)
  • Pyle, Robert Michael The Butterflies of Cascadia (2002)

External links[edit]