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Overview

Brief Summary

Description

The red admiral is a familiar butterfly, and is easy to identify thanks to its striking patterning; the black forewings feature prominent red bars and white spots. The undersides of the hindwings are delicately patterned with brown and black (1), which provides excellent camouflage when this butterfly is roosting on tree trunks (2). The caterpillar grows to 3.5 cm in length, and occurs in a number of forms of varying colour. Dark forms are greyish-black, and have black spines and yellow patches along each side. Various pale forms also occur; they are either green or yellowish with pale spines and black markings (3).
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North American Ecology (US and Canada)

Vanessa atalanta is resident across the United States and southern Canada, migrating further north into Canada, and ranges south to Guatemala and the Greater Antilles. It is also native to northern Africa and Eurasia, and established elsewhere (Scott 1986). Habitats are almost everywhere from the subtropics to the edge of the arctic tundra. Host plants are herbaceous; known hosts include species mostly from family Urticaceae and also one species from Moraceae. Eggs are laid on the host plant singly. Individuals overwinter as adults (possibly pupae). There are two flights in the northern part of the range, with approximate flight times late June-early Aug., and four or more flights nearly all year in the southern part of their range. Several known mass flights indicate great movements of this species. (Scott 1986).
  • Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press.
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The Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) is a well-known colourful butterfly, found in temperate Europe, Asia and North America. The Red Admiral has a 45–50 mm (1.8–2.0 in) wing span (Shalaway 2004). The species is resident only in warmer areas, but migrates north in spring, and sometimes again in autumn.

This large butterfly is identified by its striking dark brown, red, and black wing pattern. More specifically, the dark wings possess orange bands that cross the fore wings and on the outer edge of the hind wings; white spots on the dorsal fore wings near the front margin; reddish bars on dorsal surface of all four wings The caterpillar feeds on nettles, and the adult drinks from flowering plants like the Buddleia and overripe fruit.

In northern Europe, it is one of the last butterflies to be seen before winter sets in, often feeding on the flowers of ivy on sunny days. The Red Admiral is also known to hibernate, re-emerging individuals showing prominently darker colourings than first brood subjects. The butterfly also flies on sunny winter days, especially in southern Europe.

In North America, the Red Admiral generally has two broods from March through October. Most of North America must be recolonized each spring by southern migrants, but this species over-winters in south Texas.

  • Shalaway, Scott. 2004. Butterflies in the Backyard. ISBN 0-8117-2695-9, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. p.38
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Biology

Red admirals arriving in Britain following migration have usually mated before commencing their journey. Those that have overwintered in Britain mate after emergence. Females lay their eggs singly on nettle leaves, and after about a week the eggs hatch (3). The caterpillars create a tent-like shelter from nettle leaves, in which they feed and pupate (3). The adults emerge after 2-3 weeks (3); they either hibernate or migrate southwards towards the end of summer. In southern Britain, it has been discovered that eggs and caterpillars are able to survive the winter, and emerge in the adult form in spring (2).
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Introduction

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Comprehensive Description

General Description

The upperside wing pattern, with bold red bands and white apical spots on a black background, is unique and unlike any other Alberta species. The North American populations are slightly different in appearance from the European ones, and are generally referred to as subspecies rubria. The common name is somewhat misleading, since this is not an Admiral (genus Limentitis) at all; for this reason, some authors have reverted to an older name, the Red Admirable (Pyle 2002).
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Description

Size 56-63 mm. Unmistakable; sexes similar.It is easy to identify dut to striking patterning; the black forewings feature prominent red bars and white spots. The undersides of the hindwings are delicately patterned with brown and black

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Distribution

Widespread throughout the northern hemisphere, occuring from northern Africa across most of Eurasia, and south to Guatemala in the New World; occasionally straying as far north as Iceland (Scott 1986).
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occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Breeding

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) Holarctic; in North America, from subarctic Canada to Central America. Also occurs in Hawaii (exotic), in Asia, in Europe, in North Africa, and in New Zealand (exotic).

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Geographic Range

The range of Red Admirals extends around the Northern Hemisphere, from northern Canada to Guatemala in the western hemisphere, and from Scandinavia and northern Russia south to North Africa and China in the east. It is established on Bermuda, the Azores, and the Canary Islands in the Atlantic, and the Hawaiian islands in the Pacific. It has been introduced to and breeds in New Zealand as well.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native ); neotropical (Native ); oceanic islands (Introduced , Native )

Other Geographic Terms: holarctic

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Records

34 records. Latest in 1987 (Alexandria)

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Distribution in Egypt

Northern regions

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Global Distribution

Widespread (Holarctic)

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Range

This common migratory species has a wide distribution throughout Britain. Adults emerge after hibernation in January and March, and are joined by butterflies that have migrated from North Africa and southern Europe between May and August. As the summer progresses, further immigrants arrive from Spain and Portugal, and later still from central Europe and France (2). After mid-August red admirals in Britain begin to move southwards and the majority spend the winter in warmer climes (2). Globally, this butterfly has a wide distribution, and is known across central and southern Europe, Asia, North Africa and North America (2).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

The characteristic coloration of the Red Admiral Butterfly is a black hindwing with a red-orange marginal band; the dorsal forewing is also black with white markings near the apex. The wing span of the Red Admiral ranges between 1.75 and 3 inches. These butterflies tend to have a brighter coloration and a larger body mass during the summer months than during the winter. The legs and eyes of the Red Admiral tend to be hairy and the head is moderately large.

A mature caterpillar of the larvae stage is cylindrical in shape and has branching spines arranged in rows lengthwise.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

  • Holland, W. 1907. The Butterfly Book. New York: Doubleday, Page & Company.
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Diagnostic Description

Red admirals have a wingspan of 1 7/8–2 1/2 inches (48-65 mm). The upper front wing is black with white apical spots and an orange median band. The upper hind wing has an orange marginal outer band. The underside of the front wing has a blue curcle with a dark center between the orange median band and an outer white rectangular spot.

  • Opler, P. A. and A. Bartlett Wright. 1999. Western Butterflies. Peterson Field Guides. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, New York.
  • Stewart, B., P. Brodkin, and H. Brodkin. 2001. Butterflies of Arizona. A Photographic Guide. West Coast Lady Press, Arcata, CA.
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Ecology

Habitat

Widespread throughout most of the province, found especially near wooded areas.
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Comments: Breeding habitat is virtually any patch of nettles, false nettles etc. in North America or much of Europe. Adults are migratory and occur in almost any habitat. They prefer somewhat wooded or shaded backyard situations. Overwintering habitats may be more specific but information is limited.

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Cultivated areas.Red Admirals tend to be found in moist environments such as marshes, woods, fields, and well-watered gardens.

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Red Admirals tend to be found in moist environments such as marshes, woods, fields, and well-watered gardens. These butterflies cannot stand extreme winter cold and are forced to migrate southward during the winter months to warmer climates. During this migration they can be found in habitats ranging from subtropics to tundras. The caterpillars of this species live on the plants they feed on (see Food Habits below).

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest

Wetlands: marsh

Other Habitat Features: suburban

  • Hubbell, S. 1993. Broadsides from the Other Orders. New York: Random House.
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Occurs in a huge range of habitats, usually where the most important caterpillar foodplant, the common nettle (Urtica dioica) occurs (2). Adults are often seen in gardens feeding on nectar on buddleias (such as Buddleja davidii), or feeding on rotten fruit (2).
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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Trophic Strategy

The larvae feed on nettles (Urtica spp.) (Scott 1986), and can be found on stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) in Alberta. Adults are attracted to rotting fruit and dung, but also flower nectar (Bird et al. 1995, Guppy & Shepard 2001).
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Food Habits

Mature Red Admirals tend to feed on fermenting fruits, bird droppings, and sap from trees. Adult Red Admirals are fond of nectaring at composite flowers, such as milkweed, aster, and alfalfa. The food sources for the larva include nettles from the genus Urtica, pellitory from the genus Parietoria, and hops from the genus Humulus.

Plant Foods: leaves; nectar; flowers; sap or other plant fluids

Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore , Nectarivore )

  • Kellogg, V. 1906. American Insects. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
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Host-plants: Urtica and Parietaria (Urticaceae).

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Associations

Flowering Plants Visited by Vanessa atalanta in Illinois

Vanessa atalanta Linnaeus: Nymphalidae, Lepidoptera
(observations are from Robertson, Graenicher, Hilty, Clinebell, Macior, Fothergill & Vaughn; this butterfly is the Red Admiral)

Aceraceae: Acer saccharum [oozing sap] (Rb); Asclepiadaceae: Asclepias incarnata [plpr sn] (Rb), Asclepias purpurascens [plpr sn] (Rb), Asclepias sullivanti [plab sn] (Rb), Asclepias syriaca [plpr sn] (Rb), Asclepias verticillata [plab sn] (Rb); Asteraceae: Antennaria neglecta [unsp sn] (Gr), Aster laevis sn (Gr), Aster lanceolatus sn (Gr), Aster novae-angliae sn (Gr), Aster prenanthoides sn (Gr), Aster puniceus sn (Gr), Bidens cernua sn (Rb), Cirsium altissimum sn (Rb), Cirisum arvense sn (Gr), Echinacea pallida sn (Rb), Echinacea purpurea sn (H), Eupatoriadelphus purpureus sn (Gr), Euthamia graminifolia sn (Gr), Helianthus strumosus sn (Gr), Silphium perfoliatum sn (Rb), Solidago juncea sn (Gr); Boraginaceae: Lithospermum canescens sn (Rb), Mertensia virginica sn (Rb); Brassicaceae: Cardamine bulbosa sn (Rb); Caprifoliaceae: Symphoricarpos occidentalis sn (Gr); Cornaceae: Cornus obliqua sn (Rb), Cornus racemosa sn (Rb); Fabaceae: Cercis canadensis sn np (Rb), Melilotus alba sn (Rb), Trifolium pratense sn (Rb); Fumariaceae: Dicentra cucullaria sn np (Rb); Lamiaceae: Blephilia hirsuta sn (Rb), Monarda fistulosa sn (Rb, Cl), Nepeta cataria sn (Rb), Pycnanthemum tenuifolium sn (Rb); Liliaceae: Camassia scilloides sn (Rb); Polygonaceae: Fallopia scandens sn (Rb), Persicaria pensylvanica sn (Rb); Portulacaceae: Claytonia virginica sn (Rb); Ranunculaceae: Delphinium tricorne sn np (Mc); Rosaceae: Prunus americana sn (Rb), Rubus allegheniensis sn (Rb); Rubiaceae: Cephalanthus occidentalis sn fq (Rb); Salicaceae: Salix discolor [unsp sn] (Gr), Salix rigida [pist sn] (Rb); Saururaceae: Saururus cernuus sn (FV)

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Animal / parasitoid / endoparasitoid
larva of Pales pavida is endoparasitoid of larva of Vanessa atalanta

Animal / parasitoid / endoparasitoid
larva of Phryxe nemea is endoparasitoid of larva of Vanessa atalanta

Animal / parasitoid / endoparasitoid
larva of Voria ruralis is endoparasitoid of larva of Vanessa atalanta

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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

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Global Abundance

10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Adults feed on sap, fruit, dung and flower nectar. Males perch for females (Scott, 1986).
  • Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press.
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Behaviour

Larvae form a tent-like feeding shelter by tying together the edges of the leaf on which they are feeding

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Cyclicity

Occurs throughout the season, most common in June and again in August.
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Life Cycle

The light-green eggs are barrel-shaped and have nine vertical ribs. The mature larva are variable in colour, ranging from cream to grey, brown or black with fine white spots and a lateral stripe of greenish-yellow patches (Guppy & Shepard 2001). Larvae bear bear long branching spines that are generally black (Guppy & Shepard 2001). Larvae form a tent-like feeding shelter by tying together the edges of the leaf on which they are feeding (Guppy & Shepard 2001). It is unclear whether or not the Red Admiral survives the Alberta winter; the summer broods (mid-June onwards) are apparently the offspring of spring migrants. Remarkably, the Red Admiral is able to complete at least two broods in southern Canada after the arrival of spring migrants (Guppy & Shepard 2001, Layberry et al. 1998), with peak emergences in mid to late June and again in August.
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The eggs are barrel-shaped and take about a week to hatch. The larvae are variable in colour, and take  two to three weeks to form pupae then adults emerge.

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The Flight Period

February and September-November

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Reproduction

Male Red Admirals are territorial butterflies that patrol their areas in order to find female mates. The males typically perch upon sunlit spots, in the mid-afternoon, to wait for females to fly by. Once fertilized, female Red Admirals will lay their eggs on the upper surface of host plant leaves. The majority of Red Admiral butterflies are double-brooded (two generations grow a year); however, in Canada and the northern part of the United States they are single-brooded (one generation a year), and in the southern United States they are triple-brooded (three generations a year).

The general life cycle of the Red Admiral butterfly goes from an egg, to a caterpillar (pupate in a chrysalis), that emerges as an adult. The adult then mates, oviposits, and starts the cycle again.

Key Reproductive Features: semelparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Vanessa atalanta

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 34
Specimens with Barcodes: 119
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Barcode data: Vanessa atalanta

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 17 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.  Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.  See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

TGAGCAGGAATAGTAGGAACTTCACTTAGTTTATTAATTCGAACTGAATTAGGAAATCCAGGATCTTTAATTGGAGAC---GATCAAATTTATAATACAATTGTCACAGCTCATGCTTTTATTATAATTTTCTTTATAGTTATACCCATTATAATTGGAGGATTTGGTAATTGATTAATTCCTTTTATGTTAGGAGCTCCTGATATAGCTTTTCCACGTATAAATAATATAAGATTTTGACTTTTACCTCCATCACTAATATTATTAATTTCTAGTAGAATTGTTGAAAACGGAGCAGGAACAGGATGAACAGTTTACCCCCCACTTTCATCTAATATTGCTCATAGAGGATCATCAGTAGATTTAGCAATTTTCTCCCTACATTTAGCTGGTATTTCATCCATTTTAGGAGCCATTAATTTTATTACAACCATTATTTATATACGAGTTTATTATATATCTTTTGATCAAATACCATTATTTGTTTGAGCTGTTGGTATTACAGCTTTACTTCTTTTACTTTCTCTTCCCGTATTAGCTGGAGCCATTACCATACTTTTAACAGATCGAAATATTAATACATCATTTTTTGACCCAGCAGGAGGAGGAGATCCCATTCTTTATCAACATTTATTCTGATTTTTTGGTNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNAATTCTCCCAGGTTTTGGTATAATTTCTCACATTATTTCCCAAGAAAGAGGAAAAAAGGAAACATTCGGATGTTTAGGAATAATTTATGCTATAATAGCAATTGGATTATTAGGATTTATTGTATGAGCTCATCACATATTCACAGTAGGTATAGATATTGATACACGAG
-- end --

Download FASTA File
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Conservation

Conservation Status

Not of concern.
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Widespread, "weedy", holarctic species.

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Status in Egypt

Migrant. Not normally breed in Egypt (Larsen 1990)

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The red admiral butterfly may appear to be rare at the outer edges of its range, but it is thought to be a secure species globally.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

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IUCN

Not Assessed (not resident in Egypt)

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Abundance

Common

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Status

This widespread and common species is not threatened. It is not listed under any conservation designations (2).
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Threats

Degree of Threat: D : Unthreatened throughout its range, communities may be threatened in minor portions of the range or degree of variation falls within natural variation

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This species is not currently threatened.
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Management

Global Protection: Many to very many (13 to >40) occurrences appropriately protected and managed

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Conservation

Conservation action has not been targeted at this widespread and common butterfly.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

The adult stage of the Red Admiral is rarely harmful because mature Red Admiral butterflies feed mainly on nectar. The caterpillar stage, however, damages the plants that it feeds on, though it is not generally known to be an agricultural pest. The plants the Red Admiral caterpillars tend to eat include nettles, hops, and pellitory.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The aesthetic beauty of the Red Admiral is one of the most underrated values of this species. Due to the Red Admirals wide-spread range throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia, their beauty can be enjoyed by many. Red Admirals are often found nectaring at red clover, aster, and Buddleia flowers; this combination of flowers and butterflies further enhances their aesthetic value.

  • Parenti, U. 1977. The World of Butterflies & Moths. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.
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Source: Animal Diversity Web

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Wikipedia

Vanessa atalanta

The Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) is a well-known colourful butterfly, found in temperate Europe, Asia and North America. The Red Admiral has a 45–50 mm (1.8–2.0 in) wing span.[2] The species is resident only in warmer areas, but migrates north in spring, and sometimes again in autumn.

This medium-sized butterfly is identified by its striking dark brown, red, and black wing pattern. More specifically, the dark wings possess orange bands that cross the fore wings and on the outer edge of the hind wings; white spots on the dorsal fore wings near the front margin; reddish bars on dorsal surface of all four wings. The caterpillar feeds on nettles, and the adult drinks from flowering plants like the Buddleia and overripe fruit.

In northern Europe, it is one of the last butterflies to be seen before winter sets in, often feeding on the flowers of ivy on sunny days. The Red Admiral is also known to hibernate, re-emerging individuals showing prominently darker colourings than first brood subjects. The butterfly also flies on sunny winter days, especially in southern Europe.

In North America, the Red Admiral generally has two broods from March through October. Most of North America must be recolonized each spring by southern migrants, but this species over-winters in south Texas.

The Red Admiral is the butterfly featured by Vladimir Nabokov, an amateur lepidopterist, in his novel Pale Fire.

Life cycle[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Atalanta is a figure in Greek mythology, a strong yet feminine woman who faces obstacles and backlash for refusing to follow gender norms.

References[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Vanessa, funet.fi
  2. ^ Shalaway, Scott (2004). Butterflies in the Backyard. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books. p. 38. ISBN 0-8117-2695-9. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Glassberg, Jeffrey Butterflies through Binoculars, The West (2001)
  • Guppy, Crispin S. and Shepard, Jon H. Butterflies of British Columbia (2001)
  • James, David G. and Nunnallee, David Life Histories of Cascadia Butterflies (2011)
  • Pelham, Jonathan Catalogue of the Butterflies of the United States and Canada (2008)
  • Pyle, Robert Michael The Butterflies of Cascadia (2002)
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