Red Admirals swarm eastern North America

Red Admiral population explosion
Location: St. Catharines (near Niagara Falls, Ontario)
May 3, 2012 10:13 am
I thought you might be interested to know we have a Red Admiral population explosion going on here! I understand it is in most of eastern North America. I have never, in my few years of butterfly-watching, seen Red Admirals in these numbers. They are everywhere, in the numbers one usually sees only with the Sulphers in August. I’m not sure what the reason for it is (perhaps you’ve heard?) but I am enjoying it. Seeing one butterfly always brightens my day, but seeing dozens on my way into work is simply stunning!
(I snapped this pic on my visit to a local wetlands Sunday. She/He was a very obliging butterfly!)
Signature: Alison

Red Admiral

Dear Allison,
The Red Admiral is surely a jaunty and cheerful butterfly, actually one of the Ladies in the genus
Vanessa in drag.  Vladimir Nabokov, the noted author of Pale Fire, referred to them as the Red Admirables in that playful way he had with words.  He also said in a 1970 interview that in Russia the Red Admiral is known as the Butterfly of Doom because in 1881 when Tsar Alexander II was assassinated, large numbers of them migrated.  We hope there is no ill wind behind you sighting. 

Ed. Note:  Please send us your Red Admiral photos and the locations of your spring 2012 sightings.

Another Ed. Note:  We just located this fun old posting.


16 thoughts on “Red Admirals swarm eastern North America”

  1. I quite enjoyed watching some Red Admirals in Winnipeg today. We were out painting lines on soccer pitches, and they were apparently attracted to the white latex paint we use. Now they might be members of the White-speckled Admiral subspecies. Hopefully no harm will come to them from it…

  2. Once again, What’s That Bug? saved my sanity. After enjoying the company of these little creatures all day yesterday, I found their identity here…

  3. Syracuse, New York. Dozens were sunning themselves on the side of the house and on the deck, as well as clinging to the flowering trees. Then when I was doing errands I saw them in flight everywhere!

  4. This is great. After searching the internet I thought the butterflies swarming my backyard were Milbert’s Tortoiseshells. But I stumbled onto this site and the first image I saw was the exact match. So now I know these swift butterflies are really named Red Admirals.

    For the past three days they’ve been hanging out in my neighborhood in the north Bronx, New York City.

  5. I have noticed the population boom here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

    Last year I saw Tiger Swallowtail dark morph females here for the first time, though I’ve been seeing Tiger Swallowtails for almost 30 years.
    Giant Swallowtails are new here too.

    I almost never see Monarchs any more. 🙁

  6. Hi Daniel~

    I have seen Red Admirals, along with Painted Ladies, in huge numbers here in Naperville, IL, in the past two weeks. They’re extremely gregarious and will alight on us as we sit on our patio – or even as we walk around our property. We’ve got English bluebells and yellow daylilies in bloom, and they seem to love the bluebells most of all and will congregate 5 to 10 on a small stand of them. With our recent rain and chilly temperatures, they haven’t been quite as numerous, but the Monarchs have arrived at last! If you’re not overwhelmed with photos, I can send one or two along.

    All the best,
    -Dori Eldridge

    • Hi Dori,
      We would love to get more photos, especially of Red Admirals, though we won’t be able to post them until tomorrow at the earliest.

  7. Hi Daniel, we live in NYC, in Manhattan, the less fashionable part of the Upper East Side, which is not usually a butterfly-rich location, but the last few days I have seen many, many of them! Several on every side of every block on York Avenue. It’s so great! We seem to have more than the usual number of Painted Ladies too.


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