The Hunt for Red Admiral

Red Admiral butterflies (Vanessa atalanta) are out in force this year, enough to be noticed by my radio station, WNYC. This is probably an East Coast phenomenon, as I was on Nantucket this weekend and saw many but photographed few. Being so fast, flighty, and flittery, butterflies are generally hard to photograph. Red Admirals are especially erratic and fast in flight, and when perched they see you coming way before you see them. I managed these shots because this particular one kept returning to the window and the surrounding shingles so I could just stand there and wait.I suspect therefore that it is one of the males, which the Kaufman Field Guide says are “especially pugnacious” in defending their territory; this one actually chased after a bumblebee! I suppose that he was trying to chase away me, too, so I left him to the sun. According to the Kaufman, this species sometimes migrate north in large numbers.

When these perch with their wings closed, they are much harder to notice, especially on a woodland path:Vanessa atalanta is an especially beautiful scientific name: Vanessa is from the Greek for butterfly; the Vanessa genus also includes the Painted and American Ladies; Atalanta was the mythological Greek hottie who was swift of foot but had an eye for the golden apples. Wikipedia tells me that V. atalanta is mentioned in Pale Fire, which I just started to re-read this weekend, coincidentally.

7 Responses to “The Hunt for Red Admiral”


  1. 1 Elizabeth White May 8, 2012 at 9:41 am

    There have been large numbers in the Botanic Garden and Prospect Park for the last week at least. Also saw quite a few anglewings and a few painted ladies (not sure which) yesterday in PP.

  2. 2 Roger Latour May 8, 2012 at 10:13 am

    For more than three weeks that butterfly has been all over the place here in Montréal. It was fairly common two years ago, way more so last year, but now it is quite exceptionnal. Populations are known to be cyclical. Even saw quite a lot of Red Admiral (with many Painted Ladies) in the Lower Laurentians in Québec yesterday.

  3. 4 Scott May 8, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Great camouflager! Nabokov’s a wizard! Lots of red admirals down here in southeastern PA.

  4. 5 Rebecca May 8, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    We have large numbers of Red Admirals and Painted (?) Ladies here in northern Wisconsin at the moment, too.

  5. 6 Peter May 8, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    IN Prospect Park, I was working weed removing vines and pruning shrubs in the area on the southwest corner of Lookout Hill.Nearby was a poison ivy patch no more than 25 feet wide. AS i walked near this patch , about 20 Red Admirals flushed from the posion ivy leaves ! Supreme & phenomenal !

    Peter


  1. 1 Four October Butterflies « Backyard and Beyond Trackback on October 15, 2012 at 7:58 am

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