Red Admiral - Vanessa atalanta
[From Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001; Pyle 2002] Forewing 2.6-3.3 cm. Uppersurface black, forewing with white apical spots and red-orange median band, hindwing with red-orange marginal band; undersurface mottled blackish-brown, forewing costal margin with red, blue, and white patches mostly surrounded in black.
Two flights over much of range, late-June to early August and late August overwintering to May; several flights nearly all year in southern Texas, southern Florida, and lowland California (Scott 1986). March to November in southern California to Texas, mainly May to October northward(Glassberg 2001). Late March to late October with peaks in July and September in Oregon and Washington (Pyle 2002); February to November in Oregon (Warren 2005); mid-April to June and late July to October in British Columbia (Guppy and Shepard 2001).
Best determined by the uppersurface black base color with transverse red-orange median band across the forewing (the band also present on forewing undersurface) and the broad uppersurface hindwing marginal band of the same color.
Holarctic. Throughout North America south of arctic treeline from southeastern Alaska to Quebec and Newfoundland, south through Mexico to Guatemala (Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001); to 3353 m elevation in Colorado (Brown 1957; Scott and Scott 1978), to 2195 m elevation in Oregon (Warren 2005), to 1067 m elevation in southeastern British Columbia (Threatful 1988). In Montana, reported across the state in most or all counties (Kohler 1980; Stanford and Opler 1993). Mainly uncommon to common but often rare in Nevada, the Sierra Nevada, and Pacific Northwest (Glassberg 2001).
Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
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Migratory; several mass northward movements documented in US and Canada, migration southward less evident to unlikely. Adults in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia probably do not survive the winter, requiring immigration to sustain presence in those regions (Scott 1986; Guppy and Shepard 2001; Pyle 2002).
Openings near stream courses, marshes, seeps, moist fields and meadows, city parks, gardens, hilltops (Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001; Pyle 2002). In Glacier National Park, Montana reported from riparian areas (Debinski 1993).
Larval food plants most often are species of Urtica but also include Boehmeria, Humulus, Laportea, Parietaria, Pilea, Pipturus, and Soleirolia (Scott 1986, 1992, 2006; Pyle 2002; James and Nunnallee 2011). Adults feed on flower nectar (including Ageratum, Apocynum, Arnica, Asclepias, Beteroa, Bidens, Blephilia, Buddleia, Camassia, Ceanothus, Centaurea, Cersis, Chrysothamnus, Cirsium, Claytonia, Clematis, Cornus, Coronilla, Dicentra, Echinacea, Erigeron, Erioganum, Geranium, Gutierrezia, Helianthus, Hydrophyllum, Jamesia, Lithospermum, Machaeranthera, Medicago, Mertensia, Monarda, Nepta, Phacelia, Physocarpus, Polygonum, Prunus, Pycanthemum, Ratibida, Rhus, Ribes, Rorippa, Rosa, Rudbeckia, Salix, Senecio, Silphium, Solidago, Stachys, Symphoricarpos, Symphyotrichum, Syringa, Thalspi, Tilia, Trifolium, Vicia), tree sap, aphid honeydew, rotting fruit, carrion, and dung (Scott 1986, 2014; Pyle 2002; Tooker et al. 2002; James and Nunnallee 2011).
Females lay eggs singly on the uppersurface of host plant leaves. Eggs hatch in about 7 days (depending on temperature), develop rapidly from post egg-hatch L1 instar to L5 instar and pupation in 22 days; adults emerged from pupae (eclosed) in 14 days. Larvae solitary, build small silk nests, older larvae form shelters in folded leaves or a cluster of leaves. Pupation occurs on plant stems or under leaves; overwinter (hibernate) as adults, possibly as pupae (Scott 1979, 1986; Ferris and Brown 1981; James and Nunnallee 2011). Males territorial, perch on shrubs or ground on hilltops, porch roofs, other elevated sites, awaiting passing females (Scott 1975b, 1986; James and Nunnallee 2011).
- Literature Cited AboveLegend: View Online Publication
- Brown, F.M. 1957. Colorado Butterflies. Proceedings; Numbers Three through Seven. Denver Museum of Natural History, Denver, Co.
- Debinski, D. 1993. Butterflies of Glacier National Park, Montana. Occasional Papers of the Museum of Natural History, the University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. No. 159: 1-13.
- Ferris, C.D. and F.M. Brown (eds). 1981. Butterflies of the Rocky Mountains. Univ. of Oklahoma Press. Norman. 442 pp.
- Glassberg, J. 2001. Butterflies through Binoculars: A Field Guide to the Butterflies of Western North America. Oxford University Press.
- Guppy, C.S. and J.H. Shepard. 2001. Butterflies of British Columbia: including western Alberta, southern Yukon, the Alaska Panhandle, Washington, northern Oregon, northern Idaho, northwestern Montana. UBC Press (Vancouver, BC) and Royal British Columbia Museum (Victoria, BC). 414 pp.
- James, D.G. and D. Nunnallee. 2011. Life histories of Cascadia butterflies. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press. 447 p.
- Kohler, S. 1980. Checklist of Montana Butterflies (Rhopalocera). Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 34(1): 1-19.
- Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright. 1999. A field guide to western butterflies. Second edition. Peterson Field Guides. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. 540 pp.
- Pyle, R.M. 2002. The butterflies of Cascadia: a field guide to all the species of Washington, Oregon, and surrounding territories. Seattle Audubon Society, Seattle, Washington. 420 pp.
- Scott, J.A. 1975b. Mate-locating behavior of western North American butterflies. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 14:1-40.
- Scott, J.A. 1979. Hibernal diapause of North American Papilionoidea and Hesperioidea. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 18(3): 171-200.
- Scott, J.A. 1986. The butterflies of North America: a natural history and field guide. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California.
- Scott, J.A. 1992. Hostplant records for butterflies and skippers (mostly from Colorado) 1959-1992, with new life histories and notes on oviposition, immatures, and ecology. Papilio new series #6. 185 p.
- Scott, J.A. 2006. Butterfly hostplant records, 1992-2005, with a treatise on the evolution of Erynnis, and a note on new terminology for mate-locating behavior. Papilio new series #14. 74 p.
- Scott, J.A. 2014. Lepidoptera of North America 13. Flower visitation by Colorado butterflies (40,615 records) with a review of the literature on pollination of Colorado plants and butterfly attraction (Lepidoptera: Hersperioidea and Papilionoidea). Contributions of the C.P. Gillette Museum of Arthopod Diversity. Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State University. 190 p.
- Scott, J.A. and G.R. Scott. 1978. Ecology and distribution of the butterflies of southern central Colorado. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 17(2): 73-128.
- Stanford, R.E. and P.A. Opler. 1993. Atlas of western USA butterflies: including adjacent parts of Canada and Mexico. Unpubl. Report. Denver and Fort Collins, Colorado 275 pp.
- Threatful, D.L. 1988. A list of the butterflies and skippers of Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks, British Columbia, Canada (Lepidoptera). Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 27(3-4): 213-221.
- Tooker, J.F., P.F. Reagel, and L.M. Hanks. 2002. Nectar sources of day-flying lepidoptera of central Illinois. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 95(1): 84-96.
- Warren, A.D. 2005. Lepidoptera of North America 6: Butterflies of Oregon, their taxonomy, distribution, and biology. Contributions of the C. P. Gillette Museum of Arthropod Diversity, Colorado State University. Fort Collins, Colorado. 406 pp.
- Additional ReferencesLegend: View Online Publication
Do you know of a citation we're missing?
- Allen, T.J., J.P. Brock, and J. Glassberg. 2005. Caterpillars in the field and garden: a field guide to the butterfly caterpillars of North America. Oxford University Press.
- Brock, J.P. and K. Kaufman. 2003. Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, NY 284 pp.
- Caruthers, J.C., and D. Debinski. 2006. Montane meadow butterfly species distributions in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. University of Wyoming National Park Service Research Center Annual Report, 2006. Vol. 30, Art. 14. 85-96.
- Layberry, R.A., P.W. Hall, and J.D. LaFontaine. 1998. The Butterflies of Canada. University of Toronto Press. 280 pp. + color plates.
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