Saturday, 5 September 2009

My first (potentially last) Red Admiral of 2009.

The Red Admiral butterfly used to be an incredibly common sight for me as a child (not that long ago).

This was my first and possibly my last of this year.  What has changed?

According to the U.K. Butterfly monitoring scheme it is the weather that is largely to blame. Wet summers play havoc with the life cycle of butterflies and limits their ability to feed due to their inability to fly.  

However, I was heartened to discover that populations of the Red Admiral are on the rise despite these difficult conditions.  My personal inability to see these gorgeous creatures at all this year could result from a number of things but wet summers do seem to be a likely  culprit.  Red Admiral's are migratory butterflies and variable weather conditions again can affect their flight paths.

One thing I did not know about the Red Admiral was its latin name, and to be honest it did tickle me somewhat.  Vanessa atlanta!  How fantastic is that?  So, the next time you see this beautiful lady say 'Hi' to Vanessa and think about the struggle it may have had with the weather and it's migration.  A beautiful but tough little creature indeed!

How has your experience of butterflies been in comparison to mine this year?  I would love to hear your stories.

Also, please remember entries for my competition to win a pair of professional Felco sceateurs need to be in by 1st October 2009.  You can enter by leaving a comment here.


  1. Aw Vanessa! I'm sure I have seen a few Red Admirals this year.

    Have you read the little book 'a Passion for butterflies'? It's a gorgeous book, very poetic all about the secret lives of butterflies. It was facinating but unfortunately facts like I read in this book amaze me ...and then i forget them. I'm rubbish!

  2. We have definitely had less butterflies this year here in Virginia (USA). We are seeing a resurgence of the cabbage moth, though, probably because we've had such a cool summer and their life cycle has been affected.

    Very nice picture of Vanessa!!

  3. I've hardly seen any Red Admirals this year, certainly none in my own garden. I've seen plenty of Cabbage Whites though, all after my brassicas.

  4. I've already had a number of red admirals on the Buddleija, but it's been and gone now and the Admirals have gone too.

    This year I've had many butterflies, I couldn't count them all flying around, but this year has been wonderful weather - compared to many areas of the UK it would seem!
    However for the previous two years it's been poor, the year before last I didn't see any of the big ones until October! (big ones I mean, Peacock, Admiral, Tortoiseshell, Coma) I lived nextdoor to a large park too, and expected to see many Butterflies, but only ever came across Speckled Woods and Gatekeepers.

  5. We have agood number of uk butterflies in new zealand including vanessa,,,,We also have the monarch butterfly A large orange butterfly that marks summer here ...I grow a small forrest of swan plants in the garden for the catapillas...


  6. Butterflies seem to be less common in Pennsylvania, USA compared to when I was a child. It may be a false comparison. A farm was behind our house when I was a girl. Now, I live in a fairly urban neighborhood and not many others have gardens to attract butterflies.

  7. I haven't seen many monarchs this year but that's not unusual for my garden. I try like heck to provide all they need (lots of milkweed, fennel, parsley) but have never attracted many.

  8. I saw an adonis blue butterfly for the first time this year, so pretty chuffed with that.

  9. Lovely photo of Vanessa! You are right about the rain keeping some butterflies away... the monarchs did not come this far west in Mass. as they usually do... because of the deluge of rain early on. I have always raised them over the summer but this year not ONE! Alas! I miss releasing butterflies into the gardens. Only saw one or two Monarchs all season and then only the larger catters in the garden. Hope the birds did not get them for I see no butterflies still and now they are migrating to Mexico! So that is my sharing at least of the lack of Monarchs... I did have tons of Swallowtails, Skippers and Fritillaries.

  10. I grew up with big beautiful Monarch butterflies in my central valley in California, USA, but over time, the number of those beauties dwindled. Farming has always been a major industry where I live, but urban sprawl has claimed much of the open fields. Two hours away, however, on the coast, in Santa Cruz, California, we have a Monarch site where they rest and reproduce. (Not sure of the technical term for a rookery or roosting~breeding station). I love to go there in late fall or early Spring (particularly late October or early March) to see the mass numbers of Monarchs there. It is - in a child's words - magical.

  11. Thanks for all the comments!

    I wonder whether the Red Admirals have migrated later than usual? In the garden today I watched them feeding on a Sedum and they were in plentiful supply!

    Very strange!


  12. I've tried to be even more welcoming to my butterfly buddies by planting more attractants, and this year was somewhat rewarded with fly-bys. However, we also had a long, cool spring and wet summer here in Southern Ontario(though now it's making up for that by being extra dry), which explains why butterflies have generally been fewer.

  13. Thanks for your picture of the red admiral. We have just moved to London On. and we have never seen them before and now we have seen two so far in our back yard this spring. We would like to plant shrubs to attract more of them. THANKYOU


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