Butterflies and Moths of Southern Vancouver Island--Jeremy B. Tatum



Vanessa atalanta

Red Admiral




Moses Harris in the 18th century called this butterfly the "Admirable", and it is often supposed that it was later shortened to "Admiral". However, C. Guppy has traced the history of the name back to 1699, and it seems that "Admiral" pre-dates Harris's "Admirable", and today Red Admiral is the name used in both North America and in Britain. The caterpillar is of solitary habit, and it lives in a folded nettle leaf, whose shape can be readily distinguished from that occupied by a Satyr Anglewing caterpillar. The chrysalis is adorned with shiny gold spots and patches (hence the origin of the word "chrysalis", from the Greek for golden) and, according to Harris, it is "covered with a fine Bloom resembling that which is seen on the Plumb". I have seen worn specimens of the Red Admiral as early as March or April, but I do not know if these are individuals that have spent the winter here in the adult stage, or whether they are immigrants worn after a long journey, though I suspect the former, at least for the individuals seen in March.

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