T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa gonerilla gonerilla)

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Nymphalidae
Genus: Vanessa
Species: V. gonerilla
Binomial name: Vanessa gonerilla gonerilla
Common names : Red Admiral, The Maori name is Kahukura which means red cloak

The Red Admiral is a medium sized butterfly with a 50-60mm wingspan and is endemic to New Zealand. 
There are two species in NZ  Vanessa.gonerilla gonerilla and Vanessa.gonerill ida. The top side of the forewings is basically black with a central bright red bar running back from the front edge. There are white spots, fringed with light blue, near the tips. The rear wings are more a dark reddy brown with a red area containing four black circles. The centre of each circle is pale blue. The underside of the rear wings is a mottled collection of shapes and white/brown/black colours - very camouflaged when at rest.

Red Admirals occur most frequently during summer and may live for several months, they overwinter as adults so can be seen on warm winters days. They are long lived, surviving up to 6 months in the summer, and perhaps 9 months for those who over-winter. The adults feed on nectar from various plant species (native and introduced) and occasionally on seepage of sap. These butterflies are attacted to the purple flowers of the butterfly bush (Buddleja).

The Red Admiral butterfly lays green coloured, barrel shaped, ribbed, eggs which are generally laid singly on a nettle leaf. When hatched the larvae go through 5 growth stages (called instars). For about 10 days they have a brown body with small white spots and fine hairs (setae). At about 2.5mm they moult and during this stage develop a pale stripe along the body just above the legs. The setae start to develop spikes, usually two or more at this stage. At about 5mm long they moult again and the pale longitudinal lines become more obvious. At about 10mm they moult once more, and the setae develop more spikes. The last moult is at about 22mm, from where they grow to about 36mm before pupating.
Ongaonga (Urtica ferox) or Native Stinging Nettle is the main food plant for Red Admiral larvae. The larvae can also eat other Urtica species. Throughout their life they use the leaf to protect them during the day, by rolling the edge around them, or (as they get bigger) folding the leaf over into a 'tent'. The pupa is about 20mm long.
Appears October to March.

Visit http://www.monarch.org.nz/monarch/other-species/ for more details

Click on images to enlarge.





Normal underside of the butterfly.


In this photo I have positioned the wings to show the full colour of the underside.  The underside of the fore wings display a striking blue eye spot bracketed by white and red arcs. 



A Red Admiral perched on a leaf with wings high enough to see the underside eye.

A Red Admiral at rest on a Hebe, not showing blue black eye.