Meet the Red Admiral Butterfly and Learn How to Attract Them

Learn how to identify red admiral butterflies, what they eat, where they live and what plants their caterpillars munch.

Red admiral butterflies are as striking as they are common, although you may not know much about them. Here are the most asked questions about these majestic fluttering insects.

A red admiral butterfly sits on a flowering plum tree branch. Ursula Anderson

What markings do they have?

Adult butterflies have a wingspan of 1 to 2 1/2 inches. The forewing is dark with a red-orange stripe and white dots and the hindwing boasts a red-orange border. Check out our butterfly ID cheat sheet for more help identifying butterflies.

Where do red admiral butterflies live?

Red admirals are found nearly everywhere in the United States, Mexico and southern Canada, as well as Europe and western Asia. Males are especially active in the afternoon and evening as they look for females.

What do red admiral butterflies eat?

Adults visit flowers but prefer tree sap, fermenting fruit and animal droppings. Put out overripe fruit to attract them. Caterpillars only nibble on their host plant, which is nettle. You can find them on stinging nettle, false nettle and wood nettle.

Three red admiral caterpillars sitting on a leaf.Przemyslaw Muszynski/Shutterstock

What do the caterpillars look like?

Red admiral caterpillars are mostly black or dark brown, with or without speckling. They also have yellow markings along their sides. Planning a butterfly garden? Plant these flowering shrubs that attract butterflies.