red admiral

(Vanessa atalanta)

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List

not listed


N5 - Secure

S4S5B - Apparently Secure to Secure Breeding


not listed

red admiral
Photo by Tom Baker

Red admiral is a easily recognized, migratory, medium-sized, brushfooted butterfly. It has a wingspan of 1¾ to 3. Females are slightly larger than males. There are two distinct forms, the larger and brighter summer form and the smaller and duller winter form.

The outer edge of the forewing is slightly scalloped and the tip (apex) is squared off. On the upper side of the forewing there is a a broad reddish-orange band that extends from the median area at the leading (costal) margin to the submarginal area at the inner margin. The area inside the band (discal area) is dark brown. The area outside of the band (apex) is black with a large, subapical white spot and a curved row of 5 smaller apical spots. On the summer form the band is interrupted, on the winter form it is not.

The hindwing is rounded. The upper side of the hindwing is dark brown with a broad, reddish-orange marginal band. Within the orange band there is a small blue spot near the anal angle and a row of 4 small black dots.

The underside of the forewing is dark brown in the discal area, unevenly blue and black in the median area, and light brown at the apex. There is a pinkish-orange band mirroring the band on the upperside. The white markings on the upperside are mirrored on the underside with 1 large and 3 small white spots and 2 black-rimmed brown spots.

The underside of the hindwing is finely mottled and banded with light brown, dark brown, and black.

The eyes are brown and hairy. The legs are hairy.

The caterpillar is variable in color and up to 1½ long. Though fierce looking, they are harmless to the touch. They are usually finely spotted. The spots are the expanded base of the hairs (seta). The thorax and abdomen are often pale green and black with white spots, sometimes yellow with black spots, black with white spots, black with yellow spots, or light green with white spots. On the thorax and each abdominal segment there is a long, thick, stiff, branched spine (scolus) in the middorsal, subdorsal, supraspiracular, spiracular, and subspiracular regions. On light-colored caterpillars the expanded base of the scoli are often reddish-orange. There are often cream-colored spots between and just below the spiracles on abdominal segments 1 through 7. These spots sometimes are joined into a single broad, jagged stripe. The head has is black with short, pale seta and unbranched spines but no scoli. The base of the leg-like structure (proleg) on each side of the middle abdominal segments is often pale orange.

Mature caterpillars are found from June onward.



1¾ to 3 wingspan


Similar Species


Moist areas including fields, marshes, meadows near woodlands, forest edges and openings, parks, trails, suburban yards, and gardens.



Two broods: summer form mid-June to early September; winter form late August to mid-October and mid-April to June.



Red admiral (Vanessa atalanta) migration is well documented in Europe but less so on this side of the Atlantic. It is known that some red admirals in parts of their North American range migrate south in the fall, and some stay behind. It is not known how many non-migratory individuals in the northern parts of their range successfully overwinter. It is thought that the migration is one way, that the individuals that migrate south in the fall are not the same individuals that move north in the spring. The distance of the southward migration is not known, whether it is all of the way or only part of the way to the southern limits of their range.



Early stage caterpillars create a communal nest by tying up with silk the leaves at the tip of a plant shoot. Later stage caterpillars create solitary shelters by folding under the sides of the leaf and securing it with silk.

Adults are strongly territorial. They have an erratic rapid flight.


Life Cycle

The male will perch in a sunlit spot in the afternoon and wait for a female to fly by. After mating, the female will lay eggs singly or stacked in chains or up to 8 or more on the upperside of host plant leaves. The larva molts four times before pupating. The winter form adult migrates south in the fall, overwinters in a warmer area, and returns north in the spring. Some red admirals overwinter in south Texas.


Larva Hosts

American stinging nettle, small-spike false nettle, Canadian woodnettle, common hop, and Japanese hop.


Adult Food

Prefers sap flows on trees, fermenting fruit, and bird droppings. Also nectars at flowers.


Distribution Map



4, 7, 21, 24, 27, 29, 30, 71, 75, 82, 83.



Common, periodically abundant

This species experiences periodic population explosions. In 2012 it was abundant throughout Minnesota.



Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)


Papilionoidea (butterflies)


Nymphalidae (brush-footed butterflies)


Nymphalinae (checkerspots, anglewings, peacocks, and allies)


Nymphalini (ladies, anglewings, and allies)


Vanessa (ladies and related admirals)




Subordinate Taxa

American red admiral (Vanessa atalanta rubria)

Old World red admiral (Vanessa atalanta atalanta)



Papilio atalanta

Pyrameis ammiralis

Pyrameis atalanta


Common Names

red admiral











A fleshy structure on the abdomen of some insect larvae that functions as a leg, but lacks the five segments of a true insect leg.



The life stage of some insects undergoing transformation. In caterpillars, the chrysalis.



A spiny, branched projection from a larval body wall, the branches terminating with a single stiff, hair-like or bristle-like tip.



A usually rigid bristle- or hair-like structure on butterflies and moths used to sense touch. Plural: setae.



A small opening on the surface of an insect through which the insect breathes.























Visitor Photos

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Greg Watson

red admiral  


Mike Poeppe

red admiral    

Kim Lind Holmgren

red admiral    

Alfredo Colon

red admiral   red admiral
red admiral    

Lynn Rubey

red admiral    

The Red Admiral Butterfly in The Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge.


Gerry Garcia

red admiral    

Richard Smaby

red admiral    

I had about 25 of them on a Linden tree.


Ron Cram

red admiral    

Unknown type butterfly eating flowing tree sap (bur oak)


Marie Hlava

red admiral    

Front rock garden plants. It was around 11am and sunny.


Tom Baker

red admiral   red admiral
red admiral   red admiral Photos
red admiral   red admiral
red admiral    




Vanessa atalanta
Susanne Wiik

Vanessa atalanta

Admiralsommerfugl, Red Admiral

Red Admiral Butterfly
Andree Reno Sanborn

Red Admiral Butterfly

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta)
Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren

Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta)



Visitor Videos

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Dan W. Andree

"Aggressive Behavior of a Soldier Beetle Toward a Red Admiral Butterfly"
Dec 24, 2019


Aggressive behavior of a Goldenrod Soldier beetle toward a Red Admiral butterfly.

Other Videos

Vulcana (Vanessa atalanta)


Uploaded on Dec 15, 2007

Despues de pararse toda la primavera y el varano eludiéndome, esta bonita mariposa dejó que la retratara en otoño sobre los crisantemos a los que acudía todos los días.

Chrysalis of Vanessa atalanta - Red Admiral
Adam Grochowalski


Published on Dec 29, 2013

Gąsienica Rusałki admirała tworzy poczwarkę

The Caterpillar forms a chrysalis of Red Admiral -- Vanessa atalanta

Die Raupe bildet eine Puppe Schmetterling Admiral -- Vanessa atalanta

Housenka vytvoří kuklu Babôčka admiralska

Butterfly - Atalanta - Vanessa atalanta - Dudinghausen - Sauerland - Germany - 2013 - Full HD 1080p.
Jan van den Hardenberg


Published on Aug 15, 2013

Atalanta (Vanessa atalanta) eet van de kersen op de weg in Dudinghausen in het Sauerland in Duitsland. (06 augustus 2013). (Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX300).

For all my photo's & video's:

RED Admiral / Atalanta ( Vanessa Atalanta )


Published on Jul 7, 2013

Red Admirals can often be found on "horseshit" and Thistleflowers

(Vanessa Atalanta )

Atalanta wordt vaak op paarden"stront" en distelbloemen gevonden.

Vanessa atalanta 'Red Admiral' Butterfly


Uploaded on Jun 30, 2007

If you're gardening and hoping to attract wildlife to your garden add as many Echinacea plants as you can cram in your gardening space. They attract beneficial insects like butterflies and when the seeds form they provide a good food source for native birds.

Here, a number of Red Admiral butterflies are feeding on the pollen of a few of my Echinacea plants.



Visitor Sightings

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Greg Watson

Location: Eagles Bluff Park, La Crescent, MN

red admiral

Location: Blaine, MN

seen late morning on my deck.

Mike Poeppe

Location: near Houston, MN

red admiral

Kim Lind Holmgren

Location: Quiring, MN

red admiral
Alfredo Colon

Location: Woodbury, Minnesota

red admiral
Lynn Rubey

Location: Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge

The Red Admiral Butterfly in The Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge.

red admiral
Gerry Garcia

Location: Nine Mile Creek, Bloomington, MN

red admiral
Richard Smaby

Location: Austin, MN

I had about 25 of them on a Linden tree.

red admiral
Ron Cram

Location: Canby, MN (Yellow Medicine County)

Unknown type butterfly eating flowing tree sap (bur oak)

red admiral
Marie Hlava

Location: Pine Island, MN

Front rock garden plants. It was around 11am and sunny.

red admiral Sightings

Avon Hills Forest SNA, North Unit

Bertram Chain of Lakes Regional Park

Big Woods Heritage Forest WMA

Blue Devil Valley SNA

Blue Mounds State Park

Boot Lake SNA

Buffalo River State Park

Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center

Cedar Mountain SNA

Chamberlain Woods SNA

Cherry Grove Blind Valley SNA

Chimney Rock SNA

Cleary Lake Regional Park

Cottonwood River Prairie SNA

Des Moines River SNA

Edward Velishek Memorial WMA

Falls Creek SNA

Felton Prairie SNA, Bicentennial Unit

Flandrau State Park

Fort Ridgely State Park

Franconia Bluffs SNA

Frontenac State Park

Glendalough State Park

Gneiss Outcrops SNA

Hastings SNA

Hythecker Prairie SNA

Interstate State Park

Iron Horse Prairie SNA

Joseph A. Tauer Prairie SNA

Kasota Prairie

Keller Regional Park

Kellogg Weaver Dunes SNA, Kellogg Weaver Unit

Lake Byllesby Regional Park

Lake Carlos State Park

Lake Louise State Park

Lake Maria State Park

Lebanon Hills Regional Park

Lost Valley Prairie SNA

Maplewood State Park

Mary Schmidt Crawford Woods SNA

Minneopa State Park

Minnesota Valley NWR, Rapids Lake Unit

Moose Lake State Park

Mound Spring Prairie SNA, North Unit

Oronoco Prairie SNA

Oxbow Park & Zollman Zoo

Pine Bend Bluffs SNA

Rice Lake Savanna SNA

Richard M. & Mathilde Rice Elliott SNA

Ritter Farm Park

River Terrace Prairie SNA

Rock Ridge Prairie SNA

Rockville County Park

Sakatah Lake State Park

Sand Prairie Wildlife Management and Environmental Education Area

Savage Fen SNA

Scenic State Park

Seven Mile Creek County Park

Seven Sisters Prairie

Seven Springs WMA

Springbrook Nature Center

Staffanson Prairie

Sunfish Lake Park

Swedes Forest SNA

Twin Lakes SNA

Upper Sioux Agency State Park

Vermillion Highlands Research Recreation and WMA

Westwood Hills Nature Center

Whitetail Woods Regional Park

William O’Brien State Park

Woodland Trails Regional Park

Yellow Bank Hills SNA

Zumbro Falls Woods SNA






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