The admiral is a well-known butterfly that is often seen due to its size and abundance. In this portrait you will be introduced to the Admiral Butterfly.


  • scientific name: Vanessa atalanta
  • belongs to the family of noble butterflies (Nymphalidae)
  • Wingspan: 55 cm to 65 cm
  • Wings are closed when sitting
  • Forewings: Dark brown ground colour, red band running down the middle, black tips with white dots and bars
  • Pattern reminiscent of an admiral’s uniform
  • Hind wings: Dark brown ground color, outer edge with red band, underside mottled in red, black or violet
  • Females have a small white dot on the front wing bands
  • Body color: black-brown
  • uses 4 legs to stand or sit
  • 2 front legs converted to cleaning paws
  • are used for tasting, smelling, touching and cleaning
  • possible life span: 1 to 2 years
  • peregrine
  • Flight time: late May to mid-October
  • non-endangered species

distribution and habitat

The admiral is widespread, but can be found on a variety of continents:

  • Europe to Southern Scandinavia (60th degree of latitude), Caucasus and Anatolia
  • Mediterranean Islands, Canaries, Azores, Bermuda, Iceland
  • West Asia to China and West Siberia
  • North Africa
  • Central America
  • North America to Alaska and Canada
  • Hawaii
  • New Zealand

In many of these habitats, the Admiral butterfly is either year-round or summer-only, such as Alaska or the southern coast of Finland. Since they are migratory butterflies, they can take over new territories. The butterfly does not really make great demands on the habitat. For this reason he is often observed. Typical habitats include:

  • gardens
  • settlement areas
  • wooded areas
  • grasslands
  • agricultural land

way of life

Since the admiral is a migratory butterfly, it does not spend the winter north of southern Germany. As soon as the nights get colder, the butterfly is drawn from central European populations to eastern France, the Upper Rhine or southern Germany. Other populations cover distances of 1,000 to 3,000 kilometers to spend the winter in southern Europe, northern Africa or Asia Minor. About 3 new generations of Admiral butterflies are created each year, which means that the species can often be spotted during flight times. Reproduction takes place from May to June and it is not uncommon for a gradation to occur, i.e. a mass increase due to many adult specimens in one place. The development of the moth proceeds as follows:

  • Eggs are laid on forage plants
  • must be in partial shade
  • young caterpillars build a nest
  • it consists of pieces of leaves
  • older caterpillars expand them
  • the characteristic leaf bags develop
  • the caterpillars remain in their nest
  • it is eaten up piecemeal
  • The feeding phase lasts 4 weeks
  • pupation takes place in the leaf bag
  • Pupation phase lasts 2 weeks
  • usually hatch in mid to late July
Note: If you are lucky, you can even observe some admirals in southern Germany over the winter. They do not die immediately after the onset of frost because they find suitable conditions for overwintering.


Incidentally, the Admiral butterfly is a butterfly that only eats liquid food. However, it sucks flower nectar, preferably from the following forage plants:

  • Butterflies (Buddleja davidii)
  • Magnificent stonecrop (Hylotelephium spectabile)
  • Ivy (Hedera helix)
  • Wasserdost (Eupatorium cannabinum)
  • Blackberries (Rubus fruticosus)

But they don’t stop at fruit trees, berry bushes, herbs and other flowering plants either. If the nectarivore has only a few flowers available, they switch to fruit juices and sweet drinks. Fallen fruit is one of the favorites in autumn. In Central Europe, the caterpillars feed mainly on the stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), while further south the following glass herbs (Parietaria) are also on the menu:

  • Upright vitreous herb (Parietaria officinalis)
  • Kleines Glaskraut (Parietaria debilis)
  • Wall Glasswort (Parietaria diffusa)
Note: Sometimes the nettle butterfly feeds on animal droppings or carrion. So don’t be surprised if you see the admiral sucking on excrement or a dead animal.

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