© Copyright: Images: Per-Olof Wickman, Jouko Lehmuskallio. All rights reserved.

Red Admiral

Vanessa atalanta

  • Family: Brushfooted Butterflies – Nymphalidae
  • Subfamily: True Brushfoots – Nymphalinae
  • Wing span: Large, 53–65 mm (2.1–2.6 in.). Females larger than males.
  • Wing upper side: Dark brown, red band across forewing and along hind wing’s margin. Forewing tip black with white patches.
  • Wing underside: Forewing a mix of blue and brown, red band half-way, tip with white blotches. Hind wing a mix of different shades of brown, middle of leading edge with white or light brown blotch.
  • Habitat: Meadows, grazing land, gardens, agriculturally and culturally influenced environments.
  • Flying time: Late May–mid-September.
  • Overwintering form: Adult butterfly.
  • Larval foodplant: In Finland stinging nettle (Urtica dioica).

The Brushfooted butterflies (Nymphalidae) comprise the largest family worldwide with over 6,000 species (12 subfamiles, 550 genera). There are around 60 species in Finland which are usually divided into 5 subfamilies, of which the Nymphalinae (True brushfoots) is one. The others are the Limenitidinae (Admirals and relatives), the Satyrinae (Browns), the Apaturinae (Emperors) and the Heliconiinae (Longwings).

The red admirals can be most easily spotted by the red band that traverses the upper surface of the forewings, continuing on the hind wings to form an almost complete circle that makes it easy to recognize the species. Males defend their territory on meadows, tree-tops and hill-summits as they wait for females to arrive. The females lay their eggs one by one on the host plants. The caterpillars live inside the intertwined leaves of the host plant. In autumn the second-generation butterflies usually fly south for the winter. The red admiral is a migrant, meaning that it travels far from its birthplace. Such butterflies arrive in Finland from more southern countries. The most important breeding grounds are in northern Africa and southern Europe. Overwintering is only successful in Finland in exceptional circumstances.

Other species from the same subfamily

Follow us!

Identify species!

Sivun alkuun / Top of the page