Red Admirals

When we arrived home from the airport today there were two Red Admirals fluttering around the front garden. I chose to view them as our welcoming committee.

Red Admiral butterfly on 'Fascination' Culver's Root.
Red Admiral butterfly on ‘Fascination’ Culver’s Root.

A Red Admiral is not a Soviet naval officer but a butterfly. They’ve been present this year in limited numbers. We haven’t gotten any photographs, though, because they were always excessively jumpy and would never stay still. According to the Butterflies and Moths of North America website, Red Admirals have a “very erratic and rapid flight”.

Today was different, though. The Red Admirals were loving the ‘Fascination’ Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum) so much that Judy got a bunch of pictures while they were happily nectaring.

Red Admiral butterfly
Red Admiral butterfly and friend.

Actually, Red Admirals feed at flowers only when their favorite foods are unavailable. Their top choices for fine dining are tree sap, fermented fruit, and bird droppings. Yum! (Actually, fermented fruit might be OK.) So while the Culver’s root may not have been a match for bird droppings, it was certainly keeping these butterflies occupied.

An odd thing is that Red Admirals will take in salt from human sweat. They will land on your shirt and just stay there (they’ve done this to me), provided you’ve worked up enough perspiration.

2014-07-14 14.53.33 red admiral purple butterfly

Plants of the nettle family (Urticaceae) are the hosts for Red Admiral butterflies. I’ve considered planting false nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica) in the garden, but nothing could induce me to plant stinging nettle (Urtica dioica).

These butterflies are fairly common. They can be found in most of North America as well as in Europe and North Africa.

Do you have Red Admirals in your garden?


16 Comments on “Red Admirals

  1. Welcome home! Yes, we had red admirals in the backyard a couple of weeks ago doing their territorial dance. Fascinating to watch as they’re quite acrobatic. I’ve seen lots of them this summer–here at home, in Door County, and at our cottage in Marquette County. They’re lovely.

  2. Nice shots. We get them occasionally too, but not in large numbers. I do have nettles though! I’ve never heard of false nettles before… must look them up.

  3. Last week a Red Admiral landed on my forearm while I was gardening. It lingered some time, left, came back again, and lingered a while longer. That’s the only time that has happened to me, so thanks for telling me the reason.

  4. So interesting. I am inspired to learn more about the butterflies that visit my garden. Nice photos of them! Have a wonderful day.

  5. I don’t think i have noticed them before, but that is so interesting about them. They look like very busy butterflies and their wings are just about worn out!

  6. I agree that that was a pretty sweet way to be welcomed home. hahaha And I wonder … do they go for the bird droppings AFTER they imbide the fermented fruit? Poor thing looks pretty beat up. I bet it has a story or two to tell if it could.

  7. Ha! Nice to have a welcoming committee there for your return. Glad you had a safe trip.
    Red admirals seemed a lot more delicate before the whole rotting fruit, bird poop info! I’ve had them come and go around here, their numbers seem much more cyclical than other butterflies. One year they completely defoliated the stinging nettle and it’s never seemed to recover (not that I nurse it along), but the admirals that year were all over the place that year.
    I’ll have to think of it as a red invasion from now on.

  8. Funny we just had one this weekend on the monarda for hours. Lots of bird droppings here for them if they want them. I hope mine is a welcoming committee for more butterflies…still scarce.

  9. I don’t know about red admirals, but I sure have stinging nettles. Which I was about to remove, but should I keep them for the butterflies? Decisions, decisions.

  10. Well, you learn something every day, a butterfly feasting on bird poop? Wow….who would have thought it! I do love red admirals, we have them here and they love to alight on you, especially if you stand still and put your hand

  11. Great shots. I love it when the butterflies come to visit. I have ‘Fascination’ in my garden, I will have to pay close attention to see if the Red Admirals come to visit.

  12. The Portland Fling sounds marvelous. The Pacific Northwest is my ideal climate to garden in (not that I’ve ever tried – it’s just that the gardens look so great. I don’t know if I have Red Admirals, since they and their ilk go immediately into my Orange and Black Butterfly that’s not a Monarch” category. It’s a pretty big category.

  13. Yes, we have Red Admirals in the garden, usually they are the first butterfly to arrive in spring and one of the last I see in autumn but they aren’t so visible during summer so perhaps they are on their way to and from somewhere.

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