Red Admiral Butterfly

(Vanessa atalanta)


The upperside of the Red Admiral is black with white spots near the apex of the forewing.  The forewing has a red median band and the hindwing a red marginal band with black spots. The winter form is smaller and duller than the summer form, which is much larger and brighter with an interrupted forewing band.  The typical wingspan of the Red Admiral is 1 3/4 to 3 inches (4.5 - 7.6 cm).

The caterpillar is black with light white to yellow speckles and spines all over.


Prefers open spaces and backyard gardens. May be seen in coastal habitats with flowering plants.


The caterpillars feed on plants of the nettle family. The young caterpillars eat and live within a shelter of folded leaves while the older caterpillars make a nest of leaves tied together with silk.

The Red Admiral butterfly feeds on sap flows on trees, fermenting fruit, and bird droppings. It only visits flowers when these food sources are not available. In Bermuda, the Red Admiral visits a number of introduced flower species, including Milkweed, and natives such as the beach plant Scurvy Grass (photo below).

Life Cycle

The Red Admiral has a very erratic and rapid flight. The male can be found perching on ridge tops in the afternoon to wait for females, who lay eggs singly on the tops of host plant leaves.


The Red Admiral is a regular migrant to Bermuda. The Red Admiral butterfly can be attracted to the garden with planting milkweed and nettles.