A Red Admiral basking in late autumn sunshine. © 2021 Steven Cheshire.
The Red Admiral is a common butterfly in Warwickshire. Numbers increase dramatically during the late summer months peaking in September and October when it becomes a familiar sight in urban gardens, especially where Buddleia bushes and Ivy are in flower. They are often seen feeding often in large numbers on flowering Ivy and rotting fallen fruit in gardens and orchards during this time of year.
Individuals may be seen into November on calm sunny days and we often receive sightings during December, January and February when almost all other species of butterfly are unlikely to be seen. The Red Admiral overwinters as an adult butterfly and is occasionally disturbed from hibernation in outhouses and sheds.
The Red Admiral can be found in a range of habitats from urban gardens to agricultural land, ancient native broadleaved woodland to disused railway lines. It is most numerous where abundant nectar sources are available and Common Nettle the larval food plant can be found in semi-shaded locations.
The primary larval foodplant is Common Nettle (Urtica dioica). Small nettle (Urtica urens), pellitory-of-the-wall (Parietaria judaica) and hop (Humulus lupulus) are also used occasionally.
Allowing a patch of Common Nettle to grow in your garden in a semi-shaded location is a quick and easy way to encourage this species to breed. Planting nectar sources such as buddleia, iceplant and ivy will attract the adult butterflies, especially in late summer and autumn. Rotting fruit that have fallen from fruit trees during the autumn are irresistible to Red Admiral butterflies.
The Red Admiral can be found throughout Warwickshire. It is a widespread species and can be numerous at times where suitable habitat allows.