I don’t ever remember seeing the Red Admiral butterfly (latin name Vanessa atalanta) this early in the year. There aren’t many things in bloom from which to gather nectar.
On a recent warm day, my hubby and I were sitting on the deck when we noticed 2 flitting around. They kept landing on window frames, floodlights and other inanimate objects. They were smaller than our summer Admirals with less vivid coloring.
We watched as performed this dance circling around each other while flying straight up. Some sort of mating ritual? Seems so according to University of Michigan Museum of Zoology ¹.
Red Admirals rapidly change direction throughout the course of their flight. They are most active throughout the spring and fall months and flight time lasts from March until November. Adult Red Admirals hibernate throughout the winter months. ¹
Their reproduction cycle includes patrolling areas in order to find female mates, typically perching upon sunlit spots, in the mid-afternoon, to wait for females to fly by. ¹
The female lays her eggs on host plants such as milkweed, aster and alfalfa; none of which are quite ready yet here in MN. They were most likely on their migratory path from the north of Canada southward gathering food from fermenting fruits, bird droppings (ew!), and sap from trees. We have evergreens weeping sap this time of year. Maybe this was a source of food on that day. I also found migratory information that said they migrate from south to north in the Spring, but either way I think they were passing through.
Have you seen butterflies yet this year? You can share what you’ve seen by commenting below!
¹ Source: Downing, A. 2000. “Vanessa atalanta” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 03, 2012 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Vanessa_atalanta.html
Red Admiral update:
One of my readers, Christy K., sent me these awesome pictures she took of Red Admirals. She spotted 30-50 of them on her cherry tree on April 15! Thanks for sharing them, Christy! 😀