Lepidoptera The Red Admiral Butterfly – Vanessa Atalanta

There seems to be a tendency with many to under-estimate the beauty of certain natural objects because they happen to be so very common, and this is particularly the case with some of our most familiar butterflies. The beautiful Red Admiral (Butterfly PicturesPlate IV, fig. 3) may possibly suffer in this respect; for, not only is it one of the commonest of our butterflies, but it fearlessly hovers among the flowers of our gardens, often venturing into the very heart of thickly populated towns.

The bright scarlet bands and white blotches of this gorgeous insect stand out boldly on the rich velvety black ground of the wings, and the additional touches of blue in the anal angles of the hind wings add to the effect. The under side of the fore wings is somewhat similar to the upper surface, but is relieved by brown and blue; and this side of the hind wings presents most beautiful and indescribable blendings of various shades of brown, grey, and pink. The female may be distinguished by the presence of a small white spot on the scarlet band of the fore wing.

The eggs are deposited singly on the nettle (Urtica dioica) in spring by females that have hybernated through the winter.

The caterpillar always feeds under the cover of a tent made by drawing leaves together. It is spiny, and its colour is usually a greenish or yellowish grey, spotted with black, and striped along the sides with white or yellow. When fully grown it bites the stem of the nettle nearly through a few inches from the top, so that the upper part of the plant bends over the withers. It then constructs a commodious tent by binding the leaves of this drooping portion together, and suspends itself from the roof of this strange home to undergo its metamorphoses.

The change to the chrysalis state takes place in July or August, and the perfect insect may be seen during August, September, and October in almost every part of the British Isles.