Monday, June 18, 2012

The Red Admiral Butterfly: A Common Summer Visitor to New England

On Sunday I was visiting with family in northern Massachusetts and I spotted this very cool butterfly in the garden behind the house. It seemed completely unperturbed by my presence, allowing me to take several photos of it with my smart phone. When it comes to butterfly ID and natural history my present knowledge base is fairly shallow, but I've been making an effort to become better acquainted with these colorful and surprisingly hardy animals. So far this spring I have learned to identify the Eight-spotted Forester Moth, the Spicebush Swallowtail and with this most recent observation, the Red Admiral.

The Red Admiral is a common visitor to gardens in the northeastern US during the spring and summer.
The Massachusetts Audubon Society has some great online resources available if you'd like to learn more about the butterflies and moths which can be found in the Commonwealth. This website offers some great information on the natural history of the species and notes the fact that there have been recorded instances of iruptions of these butterflies, with massive numbers showing up in Massachusetts on occasion. As my observations usually do, seeing this Red Admiral inspired me to try and learn a little more about this butterfly, and I was surprised to learn that for the adult form, flowers are really a secondary food source - in fact, according to the Butterflies and Moths of North America website,  they prefer to get their nutrients from tree sap, bird droppings and fruit.

According to the Massachusetts Audubon Society Butterfly Atlas, volunteer researchers have noted adult  Red Admiral feeding on a range of flowering plants, including Goldenrod, Milkweeds and Meadowsweet.
If you're interested in learning more about butterflies, the following sites offer accessible information and some great photos:

1. Mass Audubon Butterfly Atlas

2. NABA Massachusetts Butterfly List

3. The Massachusetts Butterfly Club website

Thanks for reading.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2012.

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