Scientific name: Vanessa atalanta
Brown/black wings with red bands and white spots near the tips of forewings. Undersides dark and mottled.
A large and strong-flying butterfly and common in gardens. This familiar and distinctive insect may be found anywhere in Britain and Ireland and in all habitat types.
Starting each spring and continuing through the summer there are northward migrations, which are variable in extent and timing, from North Africa and continental Europe. The immigrant females lay eggs and consequently there is an emergence of fresh butterflies, from about July onwards. They continue flying into October or November and are typically seen nectaring on garden buddleias or flowering Ivy and on rotting fruit.
There is an indication that numbers have increased in recent years and that overwintering has occurred in the far south of England.
Size and Family
- Family: Nymphalids
- Size: Large
- Wing Span Range (male to female): 67-72mm
- Butterfly Conservation priority: Low
- European status: Not assessed
In Britain and Ireland the most important and widely available larval foodplant is Common Nettle (Urtica dioica). However Small Nettle (U. urens) and the related species, Pellitory-of-the-wall (Parietaria judaica) and Hop (Humulus lupulus) may also be used.
Can be found in almost any habitat from gardens to sea-shores and from town centres to the top of mountains!
- Countries: England, Wales, Irleland and Scotland
- Common throughout Britain and Ireland
- Distribution Trend Since 1970’s in Britain: +25%
- Brownfields for butterflies
- Butterflies and farmland
- Farmland Butterflies ID chart
- Butterflies in towns and cities