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Red Admiral Butterfly (Vanessa atalanta)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Red Admiral Butterfly.

 Updated: 10/7/2016; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.InsectIdentification.org




Strong migration habits ensure the Red Admiral reaches across all three countries on the North American continent, making it easy to run into.



Red Admirals are hard to miss and easy to identify thanks to their size and distinctive color and patterns. It can be found yearlong in warmer states and in Mexico, but only in the summer months in the north. These migrants can produce one or two broods during their time up north. The cold winters kill off any that remain. Adults in warm regions hibernate through the winter. Large populations migrate north again the next year, especially in the eastern half of the continent, enabling the species to return every year. In desert regions, the butterflies start to move up the mesas and mountains at the beginning of Spring's warm-up.

Adults can be found in virtually any habitat, ranging from rural to urban, subtropcis to tundra. They prefer to drink sap from trees, liquid from rotting fruit and bird droppings. They will drink nectar from milkweed, clover, aster and alfalfa flowers if their preferred foods are not available. Males are active in the mid-afternoon to evening, looking for females. They dart out at approaching objects, quick to defend their territories from any living creature. Females lay a single fertilized egg on a leaf of the larval host plants. Caterpillars eat the leaves of nettles, false nettles, mamaki, pellitories from the aster family and other related plants. Once caterpillars hatch, they form a retreat of folded leaves and silk. The caterpillars are black, developing white, or light yellow, speckles all over the body. Several black, branched spines radiate from each segment; these spines may be white closer to the rear of the larva. There are seven yellow bands, bent into the shape of upside-down 'V's, that mark each segment along the sides from head to rear.




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Nymphalidae
          Genus: Vanessa
            Species: atalanta
Identifying Information
Scientific Name: Vanessa atalanta
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 40mm to 75mm (1.56in to 2.93in)
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: red, black, white, orange, white, brown
Descriptors: flying, helpful, fast, erratic
Territorial Map
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
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State of Delware graphic
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Canadian territory of Newfoundland and Labrador graphic
Canadian territory of Ontario graphic
Canadian territory of Quebec graphic
Canadian territory of Saskatchewan graphic
Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic


Territorial Reach (A-to-Z)
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming
Canadian National Flag Graphic
Alberta
British Columbia
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Quebec
Saskatchewan
Mexican National Flag Graphic
Mexico
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.




Butterfly and Moth Anatomy
Graphic showing basic anatomy of a common North American butterfly and moth insect
1
Antennae: Butterflies and Moths have a pair of antennae on the head used as sensors.
2
Head: The head is home to the insect's eyes, antennae, and proboscis.
3
Thorax: Home to the three pairs of legs as well as vital internal organs.
4
Abdomen: Contains vital internal organs such as the heart(s) and reproduction facilities.
5
Forewing: The upper, forward wing pair used for flying.
6
Hindwing: The lower, rearward wing pair used for flying.
NOTE: Butterflies and Moths are part of the Lepidopteran order as they share many similarities.