Butterflies of the Adirondack Mountains: Red Admiral Butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) in the Paul Smiths VIC Native Species Butterfly House

Butterflies of the Adirondack Mountains:
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

Butterflies of the Adirondack Mountains: Red Admiral Butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) in the Paul Smiths VIC Native Species Butterfly House (1 September 2012) Butterflies of the Adirondacks: Red Admiral in the Paul Smiths VIC Butterfly House (1 September 2012)

The Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) is a medium-sized orange and black butterfly that may be seen in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York throughout the summer. It is a member of the Brushfoot family of butterflies. [1] Like the Painted Lady and American Lady, it is in the genus Vanessa. This species is named after Atalanta - a character in Greek mythology. [2]

From above, the Red Admiral has black wings with reddish orange bars across the fore wing and on the border of the hind wing. The wing edges are slightly scalloped. [3] Seen from below, this butterfly is multi-colored -- mottled black, brown and blue, with a pinkish bar on the fore wing. [4] [5] It has a wingspread of about one to two inches. [6] It appears small and dark during flight. [7]

Butterflies of the Adirondack Mountains: Red Admiral Butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) in the Paul Smiths VIC Native Species Butterfly House (25 August 2012) Butterflies of the Adirondacks: Red Admiral in the Paul Smiths VIC Butterfly House (25 August 2012)The Red Admiral has an erratic and rapid flight pattern. [8] [9] Male Red Admirals set up territories on hilltops or clearings in late afternoon and early evening, waiting for females. [10] Females lay their eggs singly on the tops of host plant leaves. Host plants are those of the nettle family. [11] Adult butterflies consume sap flows on trees, fermenting fruit, and bird droppings. [12] [13] They also nectar on common milkweed, red clover, aster, and alfalfa.[14]

In terms of ecology, the Red Admiral is a generalist[15] and reportedly can thrive in a variety of habitats, including clearings in the woods, fields, vacant lots, and gardens. [16] [17] Red Admirals are said to be particularly comfortable in moist situations. [18]

Butterflies of the Adirondack Mountains: Red Admiral Butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) in the Paul Smiths VIC Native Species Butterfly House (1 September 2012) Butterflies of the Adirondacks: Red Admiral in the Paul Smiths VIC Butterfly House (1 September 2012)

The Red Admiral ranges from southern Canada and the US to the northern part of Mexico. [19] It is a holarctic species, which is also found in Europe and northern Asia. [20] [21] The Red Admiral is a migrant which cannot survive extremely cold winters, although some reportedly overwinter successfully in northern areas in mild winters. [22] [23] [24] [7] In most years, southern migrants recolonize the northern part of North America every spring. [25] [26] [27] [28] This northward movement tends to be very rapid, [29] and -- in some years -- quite massive. [30]

Normally, the Red Admiral is not seen in this area until some time in June. However, probably as a result of a mild winter, Red Admirals arrived much earlier than usual in 2012, with some observors reporting swarms of Red Admirals as early as April in some parts of the Adirondacks. In 2012, the Red Admiral was present in the Paul Smiths VIC Native Species Butterfly House from late June to early September. [31]

References

Explore the VIC

The Paul Smiths VIC offers a wide variety of programs throughout the year to educate and inform Adirondack Park residents and visitors about the natural wonders of the Adirondack Mountains. You can help support these programs by joining the Friends of the VIC. More information on Friends of the VIC memberships

Explore the Trails

The VIC trails are free and open to the public, from dawn to dusk, spring through fall. In winter, the trails are open to cross-country skiers and snowshoers for a fee. Day or season passes may be purchased.