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Red Admiral

Vanessa atalanta
Today's animal is one that is very close to home for me... literally. They live on the tree outside my front door. It is the Red Admiral Butterfly, a species common throughout Europe, Asia, and North America. In warmer areas they live as residents, while colder areas see them only during the seasonal migrations.

Red Admirals can be identified by their brown wings banded with bright orange and tipped with black covered in white spots. Their wing undersides also possess those same colors, but with a more mottled pattern. As Caterpillars they are typically darkly colored and spiky, though some are more greenish or even red in hue. Red Admiral Caterpillars feed on Nettle plants. As adults they will feed on flowers, but they prefer different fruits.

In North America the Red Admirals hatch in two broods in the northern areas, and then winter in southern Texas. During their migration south they can be found living in just about every habitat imaginable, including forests, tundras, fields, and swamps. As previously mentioned there are also resident populations in warmer areas. Butterflies in Central America, for example, like in those tropical forests year round.

This year has been particularly spectacular for Red Admirals in North America. Every decade or so the migration is larger than normal, and this seems to be the year for it! The mild winter may have something to do with it, as more butterflies survived further north, meaning that more bred than normal.

IUCN Status : Not Listed
Location : North America, Europe, Asia
Size : Wingspan up to 2in (5cm)
Classification : Phylum : Arthropoda -- Class : Insecta -- Order : Lepidoptera
Family : Nymphalidae -- Genus : Vanessa -- Species : V. atalanta

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