The red admiral is one of our most recognizable butterflies. This is because this dark, medium-sized (1.75-2.50″) butterfly displays striking reddish orange bands across the tops of its wings.
The red admiral flies rapidly from spot to spot. It often lands on the ground, the sides of our homes, large flowers, you name it. There it will often flatten out its wings and bask in the sunlight.
Whenever it lands on a flower, do not assume it is nectaring. The red admiral is a butterfly that only occasionally seeks nectar from blossoms. Instead is prefers to dine on the sugar found in plant sap. In fact, the largest concentration of red admirals I have ever seen was feeding on a gaping wound on the trunk of a willow tree. Sap was oozing from the spot where a large limb broke off the tree the night before during an intense thunderstorm.
The butterfly will also dine on the juices oozing from rotting fruit. I have also encountered red admirals seeking nourishment from dry dog food. In addition, to the chagrin of many, it will also visit piles of dung.
The list of red admiral host plants includes pellitory, nettles, and false nettle.
Since red admirals are now flying about backyards throughout Middle Georgia, I am sure they can now be seen in other parts of the state too. If you have not seen one yet, you have plenty of time to make the acquaintance of this butterfly this year. This strong flyer can be seen in Georgia from March through early November.
I must admit I do not see as many red admirals as I would like, however, whenever I do spot one it is a special treat. If you encounter your first red admiral this year, I am sure you will understand why I am so fond of this butterfly.