Friday, 13 January 2017

Red Admiral

The Red Admiral hibernates in small numbers in Britain, with the majority of these butterflies arriving on our shores from mainland Europe, starting off from North Africa and, Southern Europe.

Our hibernating Red Admirals emerge from their slumber, normally in early March, and are the first to start breeding. Laying their eggs [ova, ovum] normally on the top of small/fresh  leaves and, sometimes on the flowers of the Common Nettle, [Commas are also known to lay their eggs on Nettle flowers] in full sun. The earliest i have witnessed a female ovipositing was on 16th March. The eggs hatch after about one week. There is one brood a year, extended over several months with the first butterflies making an appearance as early as the middle of May, continuing right through to November.

Note. A Red Admiral was photographed ovipositing, Kingston Lacy, Dorset 7.11.2016. Ref. Andrew Cooper

Note. Another 2 Red Admirals were photographed ovipositing, Roughmoor, Taunton  16.12.2016 and 28.12.16. Ref. Nigel Cottle

Red Admiral ovum on a Nettle Leaf
Photo Taken 25th March

Red Admiral ovum unusually on the underside of a Nettle leaf
photo taken 19th March
Red Admiral ovum on Nettle flower
photo taken 20th July

The tiny larva on emerging are quite colourful and, it's body is covered in small sparse hairs somewhat similar to that of a newly emerged 1st instar Comma larva.The tiny caterpillar will then build a hide-away in the form of a tent made from Nettle leaves.

Before they have their first moult, they have already developed a spiky appearance, which will stay with them throughout their life as a caterpillar.The larval stage lasts about 24-30 days, and they have 4 moults [5 instars].

1st instar Red admiral larva, having just emerged
1st instar Red Admiral larva 24 hours before it's first moult
2nd instar Red Admiral Larva
3rd instar Red Admiral larva
4th instar Red Admiral larva making another tent
5th instar Red Admiral larva
A Red Admiral larval tent

When the Red Admiral final instar is ready to pupate, it will seek out a suitable clump of Nettle leaves with which to make a final tent. This last tent will be more like an umbrella shape rather than a tent which it had lived in as a larva. This is done so that the butterfly, when it emerges from the pupa has more freedom of movement and, doesn't damage it's wings when expanding them, and can fly away unhindered. If the tent had been shaped like a larval tent, how would the butterfly emerge from an enclosed structure?.......

Red Admiral 5th instar larva just starting to pupate under it's opened umbrella
shaped tent, leaving the butterfly plenty of room when it emerges
3rd June 16.57 pm

Red Admiral pupa, 4th June 20.15 pm

Red Admiral pupa, 5th June 7.25am

Red Admiral pupa, 6th June 8.23 am

Red Admiral pupa now showing the wing colours of the butterfly
23rd June, 15.24 pm
The Red Admiral butterfly having just emerged clinging on to it's empty pupal
casing, 24th June, 12.47 pm

Red Admiral on Ragwort showing the wing undersides

Red Admiral showing the upper wing colours

All photographs are the copyright of Nick Broomer

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