Red Admiral - Vanessa atalanta




A little bit of sunshine after a few wet days here in South Wales brought some beauty into the vegetable patch the other day. This is the first time I can remember seeing a Red Admiral so late in the year, and I photographed this one feeding on one of the last plums left on the tree. The day before I also saw a speckled wood.  2013 has been a good year for butterflies, certainly better than the washout last year. I have certainly seen more butterflies this year, though that may be because Ive been looking! 

The results from the Big Butterfly Count (1) this year showed a general increase in almost all the species. The red Admiral came in number 11 in the list with a 69% increase compared to the count in 2012.




Species
Grand total
% change from 2012
1
Small White
154438
312
2
Large White
136944
335
3
Peacock
130796
3537
4
Meadow Brown
88547
-33
5
Gatekeeper
76935
15
6
Small Tortoiseshell
49418
388
7
Green-veined White
38988
214
8
Ringlet
31206
-52
9
Six-spot Burnet
18681
-23
10
Comma
17230
101
11
Red Admiral
17036
69


The Red Admiral is primarily a migrant to the UK, spreading up from Southern Europe by migrating generations as the year progresses. Though in the south of England there is some evidence that it over winters (2). The frequency of sightings of Red Admiral increases as the year progresses. the graph below shows the average number of butterflies seen on transects between April and October across the UK (3). The blue line gives average counts over the full BMS series (1976 to date) and the red line gives the average for the last year.


The caterpillars feed on Common Nettle (Urtica dioica). However Small Nettle (U. urens) and the related species, Pellitory-of-the-wall (Parietaria judaica) and Hop (Humulus lupulus) may also be used. There are some nettles near by, but I have to admit they are not allowed in the garden.

2: http://butterfly-conservation.org/710-823/red-admiral-.html
3: The United Kingdom Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. www.ukbms.org/SpeciesFactsheets.aspx?speciesId=122