Red Admiral - Vanessa atalanta - Vanesa

Red Admiral – Vanessa atalanta – Vanesa

  • Family: Nymphalidae
  • Scientific name: Vanessa atalanta
  • English common name: Red Admiral
  • Spanish common names: Vanesa /Numerada/Vanessa Atlanta
  • Portuguese common name: Almirante vermelho

The Red Admiral – Vanessa atalanta – Vanesa is a common butterfly and a strong migrant, even able to fly on rainy and cloudy days. Many head to northern Europe in the spring to breed, with the new generation then flying south to hibernate, but many of these don’t complete the journey and perish in the cold.

Red Admiral - Vanessa atalanta - Vanesa
Red Admiral – Vanessa atalanta – Vanesa

It is a very dark species with striking red bands on the upper wings. The under side has similar but paler colours on the forewings whereas the hindwings are a dark marbling which offers good camouflage.
The adult feeds on nectar from a variety of flowers as well as juice from over ripe fruit.

The caterpillars of this species grow to 3.5cm long, they are hairy, mainly black with off white spots. They may wrap the nettle leaf around themselves as security.

  • Wing size: 56-63mm
  • Altitude: Sea level to 2500m
  • Flight time: May to October (Hibernating individuals may be seen flying on warm, sunny winter days in the south of their range)
  • Over-wintering: Adults hibernate
  • Caterpillar food plant: Nettle (Urtica)
  • Distribution: Europe and North Africa

Similar species: In the Canary Islands the “Canary Red Admiral” (Vanessa vulcania). (Previously thought to be “Indian red admiral” (Vanessa indica) but has been found to be a separate species).

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