Red Admiral butterfly

Vanessa atalanta

family - Nyphalidae

Image of Red Admiral butterfly

The Red Admiral is mainly a dark chocolate brown/black. There are red/orange bands and white markings. I class it as one of the "big and brown" butterflies that visit Buddleia.

My personal observations of Red Admiral butterfly

months seen in my garden: March, mainly August, up to November

garden plants that attract this species:
Aster, Buddleia, Ceratostigma, Cimicifuga, Clethra, Cotoneaster, Hebe, Helichrysum, Hemp agrimony, Ivy, Marigold, Michaelmas Daisy, Mint, Sedum, Verbena

butterfly sightings 2005:

Seen in garden, daily 1-5 August
Feeding on Buddleia at Organic Farm shop, 18 August
Feeding on Verbena bonariensis, 28 August
4 Red Admirals on Hemp agrimony at Coaley Peak, 3 September
Red Admiral on Ceratostigma and Hebe, 12 September
Another on Sedum spectabile, 12 September
Red Admiral on Hebe, 15 and 17 September
Red Admirals seen along path to town, 20 and 29 September
Feeding on Aster at Upton House, 2 October
Seen in Bath, 15 October
2 Red Admirals seen in Dorset, 27 October
Seen in garden, 31 October and 13 November

butterfly sightings 2004:

Red Admiral resting on paving slab, 22 June

top 10 memorable images of 2003:

I have 74 digital images of the Red Admiral butterfly saved from 2003.

thumbnail link Resting on dogwood. August 26.

thumbnail link Side view. On Buddleia Nanho Blue. August 4.

thumbnail link A very old & battered Red Admiral. August 23.

thumbnail link On Ivy. September 28.

thumbnail link On Sedum spectabile. August 29.

thumbnail link Side view. Feeding on Ivy. September 28.

thumbnail link Side view. On Mint. August 31.

thumbnail link At Northleach, Gloucestershire. Outside the former House of Correction was a shrub in a tub with a resting Red Admiral. September 3.

thumbnail link In the background is the bridge at Stourhead. Spotted a Small Tortoiseshell on a Clethra in the Plant Centre, so when I walked around the lake I was looking for the plant in situ. August 12.

thumbnail link Close-up. August 22.

Selected images from previous years:

5 September 2002 on Ceratostigma at Westonbirt
5 September 2002 on Verbena at Westonbirt
15 August 2002
7 March 2002 in Randwick Woods
20 September 2000 on Hebe aurea


I've seen a Red Admiral in early March and I've seen them in November. They seem to belong to autumn though when they enjoy blackberries, plums and other ripe fruit.

Reference Section

Size: 67-72mm (slightly larger size than Large White - see list of butterflies by size)

First Generation flight period: May-July
Second Generation flight period: Aug-Nov (classed as regular migrant. A few Red Admiral butterflies may hibernate in S. England)

Larval Food Plants: Nettles, Hops
Wild Nectar Plants: Hemp agrimony

Family Group: Nymphalidae - see list of butterflies by family

This page last updated: 9 December, 2005