A red admiral is a large, red, white and black butterfly that's a frequent garden visitor. They're a migrant butterfly, although, we're lucky enough to possess our own UK population too. See these butterflies from as early as March through to November if the weather is warm enough. They do well in a mixture of habitats, from gardens to mountain ranges.
These butterflies are steadily active through the spring to autumn so can offer considerable pollination services.
Adult butterflies are mainly black with orange-red bands diagonally crossing the forewings as well as bordering the hindwings. There are variable white dots present on the forewings, and some blue colouring is evident in some individuals too. The caterpillars can take on several forms. They can be black, brown, green and yellow – and all of the combinations in between. The caterpillars are covered in spines, with each comprising many spikes.
These butterflies migrate from North Africa and mainland Europe each year to breed in the British Isles. Some adult butterflies stay, hibernating in the UK during colder months.
Butterflies are important pollinators; they're also a vital resource for garden wildlife like birds, reptiles, and other predatory insects. Unfortunately, the larvae, or caterpillars, can sometimes be pests in years where conditions are optimum for breeding. If in high abundance, caterpillars may be picked off garden plants using gloves and relocated.
These butterflies tend not to use garden plants as their primary food source as caterpillars, but they will feed on the nectar of a range of flowers as adults. As they provide valuable pollination services to the garden, chemical treatments are strongly discouraged. It's recommended to use eco-friendly biological treatments if infestations are large and problematic.
Attracts this pest
Butterflies will lay eggs on common nettle, small nettle and other related species. The adults are attracted to buddleias, flowering ivy, and on rotting fruit.