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red admiral   <>   vanessa atalanta   <>   aimiréal dearg

  © D Hardiman     

Family:   Nymphalidae
   The Red Admiral migrates northwards from the Mediterranean, regularily spreading throughout Europe, with the adults arriving in Ireland from about mid-May onwards where their distribution is common and widespread. 
Habitat:  Found almost anywhere, in hedgerows, woodland margins, gardens, waste ground and other places where its  foodplants grow.  
Larval Food Plant:   Common Nettle  Urtica dioica 
Flight Time:   May and June
                            August and September/October
Hibernation:  It has been established that, in shelterd areas in mild winters, this butterfly is capable of surviving over winter as a caterpillar, and will under go pupation in spring.  It is not considered that  Red Admiral is capable of hibernating in our climate, and that early season sightings may be due to fresh migrations.  However, further work is required to elucidate the status of these sightings.


Red Admiral Butterfly. Baurscoob, Co Kilkenny 2001

© DHardiman 2001  



                                                                                   Life Cycle of  the red admiral


The pale green eggs measure c.  0.8 mm in height and turn darker in colour during maturation.  They are laid singly  
on the upperside of leaves,  usually the terminal leaves of the Common Nettle.
Hatching takes place in c. 5-10 days in suitable weather.

Red Admiral ovum on underside of nettle leaf

 © DHardiman 2001

The adult larva measures up to 36 mm in length and occur in several colour forms.
The dark form is greyish-black and all the segments have branched spines of the body colour.
The paler form is greyish-green and all the segments have branched spines of the body colour.
All have pale-yellow markings on the abdominal segments close to the spiracles.  The head is black.

Red Admiral Larva. Baurscoob, Co Kilkenny 2001

 © DHardiman 2001

The earliest larvae occur in June but are commonest in August and September.
The young larva constructs a tent from a nettle leaf which is folded over and held together by silk threads,
in which it shelters and emerges to feed.  As  it feeds and grows it constructs larger tents until fully grown
when it goes on to pupate when conditions are favourable.


Pupation takes place from July onwards, the pupa forming inside the tent and suspended from a silk
pad on the roof  by means of anal claspers.  This stage lasting c.17 days.

Red Admiral pupa on Nettle plant

  © DHardiman 2001


The offsprings of the immigrant butterflies arriving in May and June may contribute to the larger 
immigrant numbers arriving in August and September and even into October.  
They have a strong and powerful flight with intermittent gliding. 
They feed on flower nectar,  juices of  fermenting fruit and sap from injured trees.
None are able to survive the Irish winters in any state.




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