Red Admiral

Vanessa atalanta

A large (67-72mm wingspan), familiar, and easily recognisable butterfly with striking and dramatic colours. The red admiral is a velvety black with broad red stripes on the hindwings and forewings, and white spots near the tips of the forewings. The underside is mottled blue, brown and black, with a pale blotch on the top edge of the hindwing. 

The adult butterflies are primarily migrants from North Africa and southern Europe flying over each spring and summer; although some adults may overwinter (hibernate) in the south of England too. This red, black and white butterfly can often be seen feeding on flowers on warm days well into the winter months. 


What they eat

The caterpillars feed on common nettles and Pellitory-of-the-wall; whilst the adults visit many garden flowers in particular buddleias and sedums. In the Autumn months, the adults feed on ivy flowers and rotting fruit.  


Where and when to see them

  • The best time of year to see adult red admirals is from April to November, however occasional adults can be spotted throughout the winter period.

  • These butterflies are widespread and adults can be found in almost any habitat including gardens, seashores, woodlands, orchards, hedgerows and parks. 

  • Butterflies can be startled by sudden movements, and even shadows. Approach the butterfly quietly and slowly, be very careful about where you stand in relation to the sun; and if you do spook them, be patient and wait for the butterfly to resettle. 

You don’t need any specialist equipment, although binoculars may be useful to see their amazing patterns up-close.

View a red admiral 10km distribution map of Wales