Red Admiral

Neil Bygrave (NATURELENS)

Exeter, United Kingdom

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  • Artwork Comments 18


Wall Art

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Artist's Description

Best viewed large.

Red Admiral Butterfly – Vanessa atalanta. Devon UK

Canon 50D
Canon 300mm F4 IS plus 1.4 x Extender
ISO 400
Fill Flash -2 2/3, Tripod
AV Mode, Evaluative Metering dialed to -2/3

Text adapted from –

Their main foodplants are Common Nettle (Urtica dioica). Hop (Humulus lupulus), Pellitory-of-the-wall (Parietaria judaica) and Small Nettle (Urtica urens).

This species occurs in Britain as a migrant originating from northern Africa and southern Europe, and being an extremely mobile species, can turn up in any habitat including woodlands, grasslands, meadows, heathlands and moors, coastal habitats, riverbanks, low mountain habitats, gardens, parks, allotments and town centres. Males also gather at certain grassland hilltop sites, apparently to intercept migrating females. The number of migrants varies according to variations in climate in Europe, and this greatly affects the number of UK bred butterflies seen later in the year.

Migrants arriving in the early spring oviposit on stinging nettles growing along hedgerows or in woodland glades, producing a summer brood in the UK which typically emerges from mid July to early August. In late summer these butterflies migrate south, and there is some evidence that the butterflies attempt to overwinter in southern woodlands. The butterflies awake on warmer days in early winter, and sightings are relatively common in woodlands on sunny days between December and late January.

In late April and May, female Red Admirals can be observed flying around nettle patches in woodland glades. They periodically alight on nettle leaves, upon which they lay a single egg. Usually a dozen or so eggs will be laid on any sizeable nettle patch. Egg-laying is interspersed with periods of basking and nectaring – typically at Rosaceae such as blackthorn, crab apple, and wild cherry.

The larva lives and feeds within a tent of folded nettle leaves, spun together with silk. Every few days, as the leaf-tent gets devoured, the larva moves house, and spins a new tent nearby. If these tents are opened, the spiky greenish-brown larva can be seen within, normally curled in a J shape, head-downwards.

On sunny days the butterflies often bask on tree-trunks, always assuming a head-downwards or sideways facing position. In warm but overcast weather they like to bask on the foliage of bramble, hazel and other bushes. Favoured summer nectar sources include hemp agrimony, bramble, marjoram and ivy blossom. In gardens they will attend buddleia, ice-plant, and michaelmas daisies. I orchards they will feed at fallen apples or pears. They will also imbibe mineral salts from damp ground, and will visit sap runs on oak trunks. Red Admirals are inquisitive, and will often investigate humans entering their territory.

Artwork Comments

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