Red Admiral butterfly

Red Admiral Butterfly
Red Admiral Butterfly – Vanessa atalanta Red Admiral Butterflies are found during the winter months in Florida. They prefer cooler weather, laying eggs on Pellitory and False Nettle around our area. They also lay on stinging nettles around the United States. We definitely prefer False Nettle to the stinging nettles!

In the above image, you can see where Red Admiral Butterfly  caterpillars have created a ‘tent’ out of host plant leaves. Look for these tents while searching for caterpillars in the wild.

At the farm, we feed them a mixture of False Nettle and Pellitory, depending on the time of year and what is most readily available. Pellitory only grows in the cooler months for us, seeds germinating and sprouting in the fall, dying back once the weather gets hot again in late spring. During the warmer months we use False Nettle.Read below to follow us as we care for our Red Admiral Butterfly caterpillars in the lab here at Shady Oak Butterfly Farm.
We start with eggs laid by our breeder butterflies. This image is of Red Admiral eggs on False Nettle. In the wild, you will not find a large number of eggs on a single plant, this is only the result of several adult females in an enclosure with one host plant provided.

We keep the plant in a mesh habitat and water it daily while waiting for the eggs to hatch. False Nettle requires a great deal of water, and will even grow in standing water along rivers and in ditches in the wild.

It is easy to tell when the eggs have hatched! The caterpillars will eat quickly and the leaves become skeletonized.
The small black caterpillars will soon be seen sitting on the leaves. These caterpillars are around 1 week old. When first hatched they are very difficult to see due to their tiny size. At this point, we transfer the caterpillars to cups.

Here you see a handful of Pellitory we have gathered to feed the caterpillars. They will not need many leaves at first, but as they grow their host plant needs grow with them!

Here is a tote of cups, each holding one Red Admiral caterpillar. You can see that most have eaten all the food provided from previous day. The cups on the bottom left have already pupated and the chrysalises were left to harden overnight before removing them from the cups.

The cup on the left in this image still has green leaves left, which is a clue to me that the caterpillar may be done eating during the larval stage and is ready to pupate!

Another image of the cup from the side. Plenty of leaves left, but no sign of a caterpillar on the lid – I will need to open the cup to investigate further.

Still no sign of the caterpillar…

Ah-hah! Found him. Red Admirals love to form their chrysalises inside a small ‘tent’ of host plant material. We always have to keep that in mind while removing old leaves from cups and habitats.

The chrysalis has hardened and is ready to be removed and taken into our pupae room. We do not keep chrysalises in the same room as caterpillars.

Here are a few more chrysalises that were removed and taken to another room. This batch will be used as breeders. The next batch of caterpillars will be ready to ship out in a few weeks. 

Once the butterfly has fully formed and is ready to emerge from the chrysalis, you will see the wings through the chrysalis cuticle. This butterfly will emerge within the next 24 hours. We will have Red Admiral Butterfly caterpillars available in a few weeks, reserve yours today! They are available for pre-order on this page. Are you interested in adding Red Admiral Butterfly Host Plants to your butterfly garden? False Nettle – Bohemeria cylindrica and Pellitory – Parietaria floridana 

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