White Admiral: All You Need to Know in a Quick Guide

The White Admiral is a fascinating butterfly species that can capture your attention with its striking appearance and intriguing behaviors. As you learn more about this remarkable creature, you’ll see why it is a popular subject among nature enthusiasts and photographers alike.

One of the key characteristics of the White Admiral is its unique wing pattern, featuring a combination of black and white colors. This captivating design not only makes it stand out in its natural environment, but also serves as an effective defense mechanism. Curious to learn more? Read on to explore their habitat, habits, and what sets them apart from other butterfly species.

Understanding White Admiral

The White Admiral, scientifically known as Limenitis camilla, is a beautiful butterfly species. They belong to the family Nymphalidae, having stunning markings that set them apart from others.

When you observe the White Admiral, you’ll notice its eye-catching black wings contrasted by white bands. This unique design makes it easy to spot. The colorful wingspan can range from 60 to 65 mm, providing an impressive display as it flies.

As a lover of woodlands, White Admiral butterflies inhabit deciduous forests. They often spend time flights between low-level vegetation and the tree canopy where they lay their eggs.

You’ll find the White Admiral predominantly across Europe, Asia, and North Africa. In Britain, it enjoys a strong presence, particularly in southern regions.

These butterflies have an interesting life cycle. Their caterpillars are known to feed on honeysuckle plants. When they turn into pupae, they opt for camouflaged cocoons that blend in with the surrounding environment, ensuring a safe transition into adulthood.

Here are some key features to remember:

  • Scientific name: Limenitis camilla
  • Family: Nymphalidae
  • Wing markings: Black with white bands
  • Wingspan: 60-65 mm
  • Habitat: Deciduous forests
  • Distribution: Europe, Asia, and North Africa
  • Life cycle: Caterpillar feeds on honeysuckle; pupae camouflage with surroundings

Comparing White Admiral with other butterflies like the Red Admiral, you will notice differences in their wing patterns. The Red Admiral displays red-orange bands, while the White Admiral has white bands instead. This distinction can help you identify them more easily during your next nature walk. Happy butterfly watching!

Key Characteristics

Appearance

The White Admiral is a beautiful butterfly with an elegant and delicate appearance. Its unique features make it a fascinating species to observe. Some key aspects of its appearance are:

  • Wings: Their wings are large and distinctly shaped, perfect for gliding through the air.
  • Wingspan: A White Admiral has an impressive wingspan, typically ranging from 2.5 to 3 inches.
  • White bands: One striking feature is the bold white bands that contrast with the darker shades on their wings.

Size and Weight

The size and weight of the White Admiral butterfly are relatively modest when compared to other species, such as the Purple Emperor butterfly. Here are some key points regarding the size and weight:

  • Size: They are medium-sized butterflies, being neither too small nor too large.
  • Weight: As lightweight creatures, they can effortlessly navigate through the air.

For example, the White Admiral has similar dimensions to the Red-spotted Purple butterfly but is generally smaller than the Purple Emperor butterfly.

Color Patterns

The color patterns of the White Admiral butterfly contribute significantly to its attractiveness. They display a unique combination of colors that make them stand out. Some essential color patterns include:

  • White spots: Dotted across their wings are smaller white spots, adding to their overall allure.
  • Black wings: The majority of the wings are a sleek black color, providing the perfect backdrop for the striking white bands.
  • Black butterfly: While their color patterns might vary slightly, the White Admiral is largely considered a black butterfly.

In comparison to other species like the Red-spotted Purple butterfly, the White Admiral’s color patterns are distinct and easily recognizable. With its captivating appearance, size, and color patterns, the White Admiral butterfly truly is a remarkable sight to behold.

Life Cycle

Larval Stage

In the larval stage, the White Admiral caterpillar starts its life as a small, delicate creature. Feeding on plants and leaves, the larva develops through several instars, shedding its skin and growing in size. Here’s a brief outline of its features:

  • Greenish in color
  • Visibly segmented body
  • Covered in tiny white hairs

As the larva consumes food, it will grow and advance to the next instar stage.

Pupa Stage

The pupa stage is where the magic happens. The White Admiral caterpillar forms a chrysalis, undergoing incredible transformations within. A few points to note during this stage:

  • Chrysalis may be green or brown
  • Attached to a host plant by a silk pad
  • The process takes about two weeks

At the end of this metamorphosis, a fully developed adult White Admiral butterfly emerges.

Adult Stage

Adult White Admirals are magnificent, with unique wing patterns and colors. They have two main life objectives: mating and laying eggs. Let’s explore more on these beautiful butterflies:

  • Wingspan of 2 to 2.8 inches
  • Wings are black with white markings
  • Can have up to two broods in a season

Once mates have been found, female White Admirals lay their eggs. The life cycle then begins anew, creating the next generation of these captivating insects.

Habitat and Distribution

Geographical Presence

The White Admiral butterfly can be found in various regions across the globe. In North America, for example, they have been spotted in central Wisconsin and throughout parts of Canada. Across the Atlantic, you can see them in woodlands of southern England as well as other parts of Europe, and they even have a presence in some regions of Asia.

Due to their adaptability, these butterflies have quite a widespread distribution. This allows you to witness their beauty in diverse locations around the world.

Preferred Environment

When exploring the habitats favored by White Admiral butterflies, you’ll typically find them in woodlands near forest edges or clearings. They thrive in these environments, which provide both the necessary resources for their survival and ample opportunities for mating and reproduction.

The following locations offer ideal conditions for the White Admiral:

  • Woodland clearings
  • Edges of forests
  • Sheltered areas within woodlands

Remember, if you’re looking to spot these magnificent butterflies, keep your eyes peeled within these preferred environments. Their striking appearance and graceful flight make them a joy to watch in their natural habitat.

Diet and Predators

Nutrition

The White Admiral butterfly primarily feeds on nectar from various plants. They are particularly fond of honeysuckle and bramble flowers, which provide a rich source of nutrition. In addition, they will also consume rotting fruit, like fallen apples, to obtain more nutrients. For example:

  • Honeysuckle: provides a sugary nectar
  • Bramble: offers nectar from its blossoms
  • Rotting fruit: supplies extra vitamins and minerals

Predators and Threats

When it comes to predators, the White Admiral faces several threats in its natural environment. Some common predators include:

  • Birds: They prey on White Admirals, especially during their caterpillar stage.
  • Other insects: Certain predatory insects may attack the caterpillar stage or eggs of the White Admiral.

To protect themselves, the White Admiral’s caterpillars camouflage themselves by resembling bird droppings or by hiding under leaves during the day. As they transform into butterflies, their distinctive black and white wing patterns help ward off some predators, as it signals a potentially unpalatable taste.

The White Admiral and Other Species

Relation with Purple Emperor

The White Admiral is often compared to the Purple Emperor butterfly, as they share similarities in habitat preferences and appearance. Both species can be found in woodland areas, particularly where their preferred host plants grow. However, the Purple Emperor butterfly is known for its impressive size and vibrant purple wing coloration, whereas the White Admiral has a more subtle combination of black and white markings. Let’s take a look at some key features of these butterflies:

  • White Admiral:

    • Black and white markings
    • Found in woodland areas
    • Prefers honeysuckle as larval foodplant
  • Purple Emperor:

    • Vibrant purple coloration on wings
    • Found in similar habitats to White Admiral
    • Prefers goat willow, crack willow, or sallow as larval foodplants

Relation with Red-Spotted Purple Butterfly

The White Admiral also has a connection to the Red-Spotted Purple butterfly. In fact, the Red-Spotted Purple is often mistaken for a White Admiral due to the striking resemblance between their wing patterns. However, the most notable difference between them is the presence of red spots on the Red-Spotted Purple butterfly’s wings. Interestingly, the Red-Spotted Purple is more closely related to the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly and is known to imitate its appearance as a form of protection from predators. Here are some characteristics of these butterflies:

  • Red-Spotted Purple Butterfly:

    • Wings have red spots
    • Resembles White Admiral in wing pattern
    • Mimics Pipevine Swallowtail for protection
  • Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly:

    • Host plant: pipevine (commonly Aristolochia species)
    • Dark, iridescent blue or green wings with tail-like extensions
    • Protected from predators due to toxic chemicals from its host plant

Conservation Status

The White Admiral butterfly is a beautiful species that you might encounter in various regions. Let’s discuss its conservation status and some key aspects to take into account.

The White Admiral is not currently listed as threatened or endangered. However, like many other species, it is important to be aware of the factors that could impact its population. Habitat loss, climate change, and the use of pesticides can all negatively affect this species.

Some steps you can take to help White Admirals include:

  • Plant native plants in your garden that provide food and shelter for butterflies.
  • Avoid using pesticides and chemicals that can harm butterflies and their larval food plants.
  • Support local and national conservation organizations that work to protect butterfly habitats.

Adopting these practices in your daily life can contribute to the conservation of the White Admiral and other butterfly species. By doing your part, you help ensure that future generations can enjoy the beauty of these magnificent creatures.*****/

Observing the White Admiral

Flight Pattern

The White Admiral butterfly is known for its graceful and elegant flight. As you observe these creatures, you’ll notice their gliding style interspersed with rapid wing beats. Their flight pattern not only displays their beauty but also allows them to navigate through their natural habitats efficiently.

Attractions in Nature

White Admirals are attracted to various features in nature. Some examples include:

  • Flowers: These butterflies are primarily drawn to nectar-rich flowers where they feed and rest.
  • Sunlight: You can often find White Admirals basking in the sun to warm up their wings before taking flight.
  • Trees: As their natural habitat, woodland areas offer the perfect environment for White Admirals to breed and lay their eggs on specific host plants.

When observing the White Admiral butterfly, keep an eye out for these attractions in nature and delight in the captivating beauty of their flight.

White Admiral in Popular Culture

In Literature

The White Admiral butterfly is not as commonly featured in literature as some other species, but it does make appearances in a few works. In the novel The White Admiral by author James Aldridge, the butterfly becomes an emblem of hope and resistance against oppression.

Symbolism

White Admiral butterflies are sometimes associated with transformation and rebirth due to their life cycle from caterpillar to butterfly. Their elegant appearance and graceful flight can also represent a sense of beauty and freedom. Additionally, the color white is often linked to purity and innocence.

Here are some key qualities the White Admiral symbolizes:

  • Transformation
  • Rebirth
  • Beauty
  • Freedom
  • Purity
  • Innocence

Remember, when discussing the White Admiral in popular culture, the focus should be on its presence in literature and the symbolism it can represent.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Probably White Admiral Caterpillar

 

Caterpillar on poplar leaves
Sun, May 17, 2009 at 1:49 PM
I found these caterpillars on poplar leaves in our field in WNY. I rescued them from the hard freeze we are going to have tonight. I have been unable (yet) to identify them and for curiosity sake I wondered what they may be>
Mark
Western New York

White Admiral Caterpillar
White Admiral Caterpillar

Hi Mark,
Your caterpillars belong to a butterfly in the genus Limenitis, most likely the White Admiral, Limenitis arthemis arthemis.  The species, Limenitis arthemis has three subspecies, and the White Admiral is the northern subspecies in the east.  Further south the most common subspecies is the Red Spotted Purple and in the western U.S. the dominant subspecies is the Western White Admiral.  The three subspecies will interbreed where their ranges overlap, giving way to subspecies intergrades.  BugGuide has a wonderful information page on this species.  The caterpillars also feed on the leaves of cherry, willow and birch.

Letter 2 – White Admiral

 


First of all I have to tell you my children and I love this site .We had fun taking pictures while camping in Nova Scotia, Canada and then trying to identify the various insects using your site .We would appreciate your helping identifying the insects that we could not identify for ourselves .I have attached all the insect pictures from our trip.
Thank you,
The Skinner Family

Hi Skinners,
Though we have written back personally about all your insects, we are only posting the White Admiral since it is a new species color variation for our site. The White Admiral, or Red Spotted Admiral, is a color variation of Limenitis arthemis. The other color variation is already posted on our site and that is the Red Spotted Purple.

Letter 3 – White Admiral

 

Butterfly in Hendrie
Dear Bugman:
Could you please tell me the name of this butterfly? It was spotted in the Wasaga Beach, Ontario area last July fluttering around on the sandy path in a forest before it landed on the wooden bed of a trailer where it stayed long enough for a photo to be taken, much to my delight. I can’t find photos on your wonderful site that exactly match as most butterflies are photographed from the upper side. Could it be an Admiral, Red or White? Thank you so much. By the way, I sent you two photographs of dragonflies yesterday and am now wondering if I should have sent them and this one, at full resolution. I shrunk them for your easy download but can resend easily if you are interested in posting them to your site.
Jan in Wasaga Beach, Ontario

Hi Jan,
This is a White Admiral, Limenitis arthemis arthemis, a subspecies of the Red Spotted Purple that flies in the northern portion of the range. The subspecies with interbreed where their ranges overlap. Sadly, we did not even see your dragonfly images since we post at random from the many emails we receive each day. We can handle a 5000K file, and it would be great if we were making a poster, but the file you sent was perfect for cropping and posting to the web at 72dpi.

Letter 4 – White Admiral

 

White Admiral Butterfly
June 13, 2010
Love your site! I photographed this butterfly in Eastern Ontario in a natural forested area (mostly aspens and birch trees). They are quite common here. I think I have identified it correctly (thanks to your wonderful site) as a White Adminral.
Stephanie
Embrun, Ontario

White Admiral

Hi Stephanie,
You have properly identified your White Admiral, Limenitis arthemis arthemis, and you have also gotten excellent documentary photographs of a lovely specimen.  The White Admiral and the Red Spotted Purple are considered subspecies of the same species, with the White Admiral exhibiting the coloration of the northern population, and the Red Spotted Purple exhibiting the coloration of the southern population.  There are also intermediate forms where the ranges of the populations overlap.  To make things even more complicated, there is also a Wester White Admiral, again a subspecies.  BugGuide has nice photos showing the various subspecies.

White Admiral

Thank you Daniel. I hadn’t expected a reply but you’ve surprised me.  You must get 100’s of emails a day asking to id various insects.  You’ve made my day!
Stephanie

Hi Stephanie,
While it is true that we are receiving about 100 emails daily right now, and we cannot read, much less answer or post them all, we do have a random system of choosing which letters to read.  Your subject line caught our attention because the White Admiral is a lovely butterfly and we were hoping the images were of high quality.  Your photos exceeded our expectations.  We were also happy that you had attempted to identify the species yourself and you were successful.

Letter 5 – White Admiral

 

Subject: What species?
Location: Baldwinsville, Onondaga County, NY
May 24, 2012 9:23 pm
This photo was taken around 12:30 PM in a parking lot outside of a nature center in Baldwinsville, Onondaga County, NY. The nature center is located in Beaver Lake County Park. The park contains a calcareous fen, a small glacially-formed lake, old-growth deciduous forest, and second-growth deciduous forest. It was a sunny, warm day (about 80 degrees Fahrenheit).
Signature: Alex Novarro

White Admiral

Hi Alex,
This beautiful butterfly is a White Admiral, Limenitis arthemis arthemis, one of three subspecies.  The other two are the Red Spotted Purple and the Western White Admiral.  The three will interbreed and there are intermediate variations in coloration and markings.  See BugGuide for additional information.

Letter 6 – White Admiral

 

Subject: Butterfly
Location: Western NY
February 22, 2015 10:03 am
I have gone dizzy skimming through photos on web sites to identify this butterfly. The picture was taken in late June. The orange on which it sits was hung out to attract Orioles. This was in western New York south of Rochester.
Signature: Denny Showers

White Admiral
White Admiral

Dear Denny,
This beautiful butterfly is a White Admiral,
Limenitis arthemis arthemis, a northeastern color variation of a complex that also includes the Red Spotted Purple and the Western White Admiral.  They will interbreed, so regions where the ranges overlap often have individuals that contain characteristics of two distinct regional forms of the species.  See BugGuide for a more thorough description of the complex.  We understand you are having a rough winter this year, and cheerful images like yours should remind our readers in the northeast that spring is not far off.

Thank you so much. I don’t know why it didn’t show up in the web sites I skimmed through of New York insects.
It gives me hope for spring.
Thanks again.
–DS

Letter 7 – White Admiral: Northeastern segregate near ssp. rubrofasciata

 

Subject: White Admiral
Location: Perinton, NY
August 15, 2016 6:38 pm
Here are some pics of a beautiful White Admiral that was on the right-of-way behind our home. This has been an amazing summer for finding a variety of different butterflies, all on the right-of-way, which is allowed to grow wild each year (in late Fall, the power company that owns it cuts everything down, but allows it to grow untouched in the Spring and Summer!). My son took the pic of the butterfly on my phone, it decided to land there as I was attempting a close-up shot of it! Enjoy!
Signature: Jennifer

White Admiral
White Admiral

Wow Jennifer,
This really is a gorgeous White Admiral.  Where we grew up in Ohio, we only saw the southern subspecies, the Red Spotted Purple.

White Admiral and Bumble Bee
White Admiral and Bumble Bee

Hi again Jennifer,
Once we posted your images, we realized that there was much more red on your White Admiral than on the individual from Ontario that we linked to, and that your individual actually looked more like the Western White Admiral, the subspecies
Limenitis arthemis rubrofasciata that is described on BugGuide.  There is a fourth, but somewhat unclear division for the species.  Here is the explanation on BugGuide for this color variation:  “There has been resistance to calling these subspecies rubrofasciata, yet they look very much the same. They replace typical subspecies arthemis at high elevation in the northeast U.S. and northward in eastern Canada, and form an eastern end to a continuum of similar looking insects that occurs right across Canada, barely lapping into the U.S. An interpretation that is becoming more and more widely accepted is that these northern insects (east or west) represent the main population of “White Admirals”. What we call typical subpsecies arthemis actually represents the intermediates or a cline (= transition) between White Admirals and Red-spotted Purples. They have the white band, but they also have increased bluish/purplish reflective area above, and less orange/red on the hind wing both above and below.
Because of all the confusion and discussion that has occurred to date, the northern types from the east are separated (probably temporarily) here to make the comparisons easier to make. They will perhaps eventually be officially called subspecies rubrofasciata, but alternately may receive their own subspecies name. It is impossible to draw a line between east and west (here, rather arbitrarily it is Ontario and Minnesota east, and Manitoba and North Dakota West). The line to the south is somewhat arbitrary too, since the northern and more southern “types” blend into one another, but generally northern insects with prominent submarginal reddish coloring on the upper hind wing and more extensive orange below are included here. This also emphasizes the point that the transition from White Admiral and Red-spotted Purple involves more features than just the presence or absence of a white band. It starts well into the populations that have white bands, and extends southward well into populations that mostly lack white bands entirely.”

White Admiral
White Admiral

 

Letter 8 – White Admiral Caterpillar

 

Any idea what this catapillar is?
This is on a small willow tree in our yard on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada, and I have never seen one that looks like this before. No luck so far in finding out what it is. It’s rear is raised and head tucked under at the end with the yellow. Large brown head & 2 spirally dark spikes. Any chance someone there knows? It is about 2 inches long. Thanks,
Ian.

Hi Ian,
This is a White Admiral Caterpillar, Limenitis arthemis. The White Admiral is the northern subspecies and the Red Spotted Purple is the southern subspecies. Where the two subspecies overlap in range, there is a gradual intergradations of physical characteristics. A third subspecies is the Western White Admiral.

Letter 9 – White Admiral Caterpillar

 

Subject: White Admiral Cats on Saskatoon Bush
Location: Winnipeg MB
June 2, 2012 6:10 pm
I noticed that you hadn’t had any recent White Admiral caterpillar images posted, so I thought I’d send along these two that I found yesterday on my Saskatoon bush in the front yard. The green instar was about twice as big as the orange-brown one. What a wonderful butterfly season we are having!
Signature: Bugophile in Winnipeg

White Admiral Caterpillar

Dear Bugophile,
Thanks so much for sending in your photo of a White Admiral Caterpillar.  It is a great addition to our archive.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Probably White Admiral Caterpillar

 

Caterpillar on poplar leaves
Sun, May 17, 2009 at 1:49 PM
I found these caterpillars on poplar leaves in our field in WNY. I rescued them from the hard freeze we are going to have tonight. I have been unable (yet) to identify them and for curiosity sake I wondered what they may be>
Mark
Western New York

White Admiral Caterpillar
White Admiral Caterpillar

Hi Mark,
Your caterpillars belong to a butterfly in the genus Limenitis, most likely the White Admiral, Limenitis arthemis arthemis.  The species, Limenitis arthemis has three subspecies, and the White Admiral is the northern subspecies in the east.  Further south the most common subspecies is the Red Spotted Purple and in the western U.S. the dominant subspecies is the Western White Admiral.  The three subspecies will interbreed where their ranges overlap, giving way to subspecies intergrades.  BugGuide has a wonderful information page on this species.  The caterpillars also feed on the leaves of cherry, willow and birch.

Letter 2 – White Admiral

 


First of all I have to tell you my children and I love this site .We had fun taking pictures while camping in Nova Scotia, Canada and then trying to identify the various insects using your site .We would appreciate your helping identifying the insects that we could not identify for ourselves .I have attached all the insect pictures from our trip.
Thank you,
The Skinner Family

Hi Skinners,
Though we have written back personally about all your insects, we are only posting the White Admiral since it is a new species color variation for our site. The White Admiral, or Red Spotted Admiral, is a color variation of Limenitis arthemis. The other color variation is already posted on our site and that is the Red Spotted Purple.

Letter 3 – White Admiral

 

Butterfly in Hendrie
Dear Bugman:
Could you please tell me the name of this butterfly? It was spotted in the Wasaga Beach, Ontario area last July fluttering around on the sandy path in a forest before it landed on the wooden bed of a trailer where it stayed long enough for a photo to be taken, much to my delight. I can’t find photos on your wonderful site that exactly match as most butterflies are photographed from the upper side. Could it be an Admiral, Red or White? Thank you so much. By the way, I sent you two photographs of dragonflies yesterday and am now wondering if I should have sent them and this one, at full resolution. I shrunk them for your easy download but can resend easily if you are interested in posting them to your site.
Jan in Wasaga Beach, Ontario

Hi Jan,
This is a White Admiral, Limenitis arthemis arthemis, a subspecies of the Red Spotted Purple that flies in the northern portion of the range. The subspecies with interbreed where their ranges overlap. Sadly, we did not even see your dragonfly images since we post at random from the many emails we receive each day. We can handle a 5000K file, and it would be great if we were making a poster, but the file you sent was perfect for cropping and posting to the web at 72dpi.

Letter 4 – White Admiral

 

White Admiral Butterfly
June 13, 2010
Love your site! I photographed this butterfly in Eastern Ontario in a natural forested area (mostly aspens and birch trees). They are quite common here. I think I have identified it correctly (thanks to your wonderful site) as a White Adminral.
Stephanie
Embrun, Ontario

White Admiral

Hi Stephanie,
You have properly identified your White Admiral, Limenitis arthemis arthemis, and you have also gotten excellent documentary photographs of a lovely specimen.  The White Admiral and the Red Spotted Purple are considered subspecies of the same species, with the White Admiral exhibiting the coloration of the northern population, and the Red Spotted Purple exhibiting the coloration of the southern population.  There are also intermediate forms where the ranges of the populations overlap.  To make things even more complicated, there is also a Wester White Admiral, again a subspecies.  BugGuide has nice photos showing the various subspecies.

White Admiral

Thank you Daniel. I hadn’t expected a reply but you’ve surprised me.  You must get 100’s of emails a day asking to id various insects.  You’ve made my day!
Stephanie

Hi Stephanie,
While it is true that we are receiving about 100 emails daily right now, and we cannot read, much less answer or post them all, we do have a random system of choosing which letters to read.  Your subject line caught our attention because the White Admiral is a lovely butterfly and we were hoping the images were of high quality.  Your photos exceeded our expectations.  We were also happy that you had attempted to identify the species yourself and you were successful.

Letter 5 – White Admiral

 

Subject: What species?
Location: Baldwinsville, Onondaga County, NY
May 24, 2012 9:23 pm
This photo was taken around 12:30 PM in a parking lot outside of a nature center in Baldwinsville, Onondaga County, NY. The nature center is located in Beaver Lake County Park. The park contains a calcareous fen, a small glacially-formed lake, old-growth deciduous forest, and second-growth deciduous forest. It was a sunny, warm day (about 80 degrees Fahrenheit).
Signature: Alex Novarro

White Admiral

Hi Alex,
This beautiful butterfly is a White Admiral, Limenitis arthemis arthemis, one of three subspecies.  The other two are the Red Spotted Purple and the Western White Admiral.  The three will interbreed and there are intermediate variations in coloration and markings.  See BugGuide for additional information.

Letter 6 – White Admiral

 

Subject: Butterfly
Location: Western NY
February 22, 2015 10:03 am
I have gone dizzy skimming through photos on web sites to identify this butterfly. The picture was taken in late June. The orange on which it sits was hung out to attract Orioles. This was in western New York south of Rochester.
Signature: Denny Showers

White Admiral
White Admiral

Dear Denny,
This beautiful butterfly is a White Admiral,
Limenitis arthemis arthemis, a northeastern color variation of a complex that also includes the Red Spotted Purple and the Western White Admiral.  They will interbreed, so regions where the ranges overlap often have individuals that contain characteristics of two distinct regional forms of the species.  See BugGuide for a more thorough description of the complex.  We understand you are having a rough winter this year, and cheerful images like yours should remind our readers in the northeast that spring is not far off.

Thank you so much. I don’t know why it didn’t show up in the web sites I skimmed through of New York insects.
It gives me hope for spring.
Thanks again.
–DS

Letter 7 – White Admiral: Northeastern segregate near ssp. rubrofasciata

 

Subject: White Admiral
Location: Perinton, NY
August 15, 2016 6:38 pm
Here are some pics of a beautiful White Admiral that was on the right-of-way behind our home. This has been an amazing summer for finding a variety of different butterflies, all on the right-of-way, which is allowed to grow wild each year (in late Fall, the power company that owns it cuts everything down, but allows it to grow untouched in the Spring and Summer!). My son took the pic of the butterfly on my phone, it decided to land there as I was attempting a close-up shot of it! Enjoy!
Signature: Jennifer

White Admiral
White Admiral

Wow Jennifer,
This really is a gorgeous White Admiral.  Where we grew up in Ohio, we only saw the southern subspecies, the Red Spotted Purple.

White Admiral and Bumble Bee
White Admiral and Bumble Bee

Hi again Jennifer,
Once we posted your images, we realized that there was much more red on your White Admiral than on the individual from Ontario that we linked to, and that your individual actually looked more like the Western White Admiral, the subspecies
Limenitis arthemis rubrofasciata that is described on BugGuide.  There is a fourth, but somewhat unclear division for the species.  Here is the explanation on BugGuide for this color variation:  “There has been resistance to calling these subspecies rubrofasciata, yet they look very much the same. They replace typical subspecies arthemis at high elevation in the northeast U.S. and northward in eastern Canada, and form an eastern end to a continuum of similar looking insects that occurs right across Canada, barely lapping into the U.S. An interpretation that is becoming more and more widely accepted is that these northern insects (east or west) represent the main population of “White Admirals”. What we call typical subpsecies arthemis actually represents the intermediates or a cline (= transition) between White Admirals and Red-spotted Purples. They have the white band, but they also have increased bluish/purplish reflective area above, and less orange/red on the hind wing both above and below.
Because of all the confusion and discussion that has occurred to date, the northern types from the east are separated (probably temporarily) here to make the comparisons easier to make. They will perhaps eventually be officially called subspecies rubrofasciata, but alternately may receive their own subspecies name. It is impossible to draw a line between east and west (here, rather arbitrarily it is Ontario and Minnesota east, and Manitoba and North Dakota West). The line to the south is somewhat arbitrary too, since the northern and more southern “types” blend into one another, but generally northern insects with prominent submarginal reddish coloring on the upper hind wing and more extensive orange below are included here. This also emphasizes the point that the transition from White Admiral and Red-spotted Purple involves more features than just the presence or absence of a white band. It starts well into the populations that have white bands, and extends southward well into populations that mostly lack white bands entirely.”

White Admiral
White Admiral

 

Letter 8 – White Admiral Caterpillar

 

Any idea what this catapillar is?
This is on a small willow tree in our yard on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada, and I have never seen one that looks like this before. No luck so far in finding out what it is. It’s rear is raised and head tucked under at the end with the yellow. Large brown head & 2 spirally dark spikes. Any chance someone there knows? It is about 2 inches long. Thanks,
Ian.

Hi Ian,
This is a White Admiral Caterpillar, Limenitis arthemis. The White Admiral is the northern subspecies and the Red Spotted Purple is the southern subspecies. Where the two subspecies overlap in range, there is a gradual intergradations of physical characteristics. A third subspecies is the Western White Admiral.

Letter 9 – White Admiral Caterpillar

 

Subject: White Admiral Cats on Saskatoon Bush
Location: Winnipeg MB
June 2, 2012 6:10 pm
I noticed that you hadn’t had any recent White Admiral caterpillar images posted, so I thought I’d send along these two that I found yesterday on my Saskatoon bush in the front yard. The green instar was about twice as big as the orange-brown one. What a wonderful butterfly season we are having!
Signature: Bugophile in Winnipeg

White Admiral Caterpillar

Dear Bugophile,
Thanks so much for sending in your photo of a White Admiral Caterpillar.  It is a great addition to our archive.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Authors

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  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

1 thought on “White Admiral: All You Need to Know in a Quick Guide”

  1. Hi Bugman,

    Your admiral is actually a viceroy; (Limenitis archippus archippus); not
    a white admiral. It’s an understandable mistake; since caterpillars and life
    histories of the two are very similar; but, the yellowish-greenish cast of the
    fifth instar viceroy caterpillars coupled with the protrusions at the base of the thoracic horns serve to differentiate the two species.

    Also, the most common species in the Western U.S. is shared between the lorquin’s admiral (Limenitis lorquini) and the weidemeyer’s admiral Limenitis weidemeyeri . The western white admiral, Limenitis arthemis rubrofasciata barely enters into the U.S. through Northern Montana, North Dakota, and possibly Minnesota where intergrades between it and nominotypical L. arthemis may occur.

    For more information about how to rear varying Limenitis taxa, click
    here.
    Thx, Todd

    http://www.raisingbutterflies.org

    Reply

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