Black butterfly with striking red and white markings, clinging to a narrow tree trunk Active

Red Admiral female. Photo: Ken Dolbear

A widespread butterfly we tend to think of as native, but it has only been breeding in this country relatively recently. A lot of the individuals you see will have come in from continental Europe. If you see a lot all of a sudden it may well be that favourable winds have brought them in.

Where to see

Habitat: Very wide range of habitats: hedgerows, wood, gardens: anywhere with shelter and a lot of flowers.

Caterpillar foodplants: Stinging nettle, occasionally hop. The nettles need to be in full sun.

Best places: Widespread.

Distribution map

Explore the Atlas to see historical distribution trends for this species.

When to see

Any month, but most numerous July to September.

Sightings by month (last 5 years)*:

Sightings this year*:

Browse the sightings archive.


Size: Large

The vast majority of the Red Admirals you see will be migrants, though some do manage to hibernate through the winter nowadays.

There is no butterfly with which this can be mistaken.

Male and female are similar, though the male is slightly smaller. If you see a butterfly nectaring on flowers in the shade, it is almost always a Red Admiral. It will also feed on blackberries and rotting fruit.

Photo gallery

Tip: Click thumbnails to view full-size images.

*Note: The charts shown on this page are drawn only from casual sightings submitted to this website. Records from this website will be added to a lot more data collected throughout the year and used to compile the five-yearly Butterfly Atlases for Dorset and the UK.

Find more Red Admiral related content, including news and photos.