Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 1 3/4 - 3 inches (4.5 - 7.6 cm). The upperside is black with white spots near wing tip; the forewing has a red median band; the hindwing has a red marginal band. The winter form is smaller and duller: the summer form is larger and brighter with an interrupted forewing band.

ID Tip: Dorsal wings have a red-orange forewing band and white forewing spots.

Egg: Greenish, barrel-shaped eggs are laid on host plant leaves.

Caterpillar: Variable in color, ranging from yellow all the way to black.  Black individuals are covered with minute yellow flecks.  Six groups of branched spines cross each segment.  Young caterpillars may live together within a folded leaf nest.  Older caterpillars are solitary and form their own enclosures.

Chrysalis: May be gray or brown with black markings.  Short tubercles cover the body and a speckled with gold flecks.

Red Admirals are named for their resemblance to 18th century British naval uniforms.  They appear pert and alert, often perching on open ground to display their distinctive colors or sip minerals.  Adults seek energy from sap and decomposing matter, but these butterflies are also avid nectarers, visiting flowers such as milkweeds and asters.

Red Admirals are moderately cold tolerant, and adults may overwinter in Alabama.  They are widespread in our state and are expected in every county.

Distribution and Abundance

A dot on the county map indicates that there is at least one documented record of the species within that county. In some cases, a species may be common throughout the county, in others it may be found in only a specific habitat. The High Count information shows the highest numbers recorded for this species as well as when and where they occurred.

The sightings bar graphs depict the timing of flight(s) within each of three geographic regions. Place your cursor on a bar within the graph to see the number of individuals recorded during that period.

The abundance calendar displays the total number of individuals recorded within each week of the month. Both the graphs and the calendar are on based data collection that began in 2000.

The records analyzed here are only a beginning. As more data is collected, these maps and graphs will paint a more accurate picture of distribution and abundance in Alabama. Submit your sightings to

Sightings in the following counties: Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Bibb, Blount, Bullock, Calhoun, Chambers, Chilton, Choctaw, Clay, Cleburne, Colbert, Covington, Cullman, Dallas, DeKalb, Fayette, Franklin, Greene, Hale, Jackson, Jefferson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Lee, Limestone, Lowndes, Macon, Madison, Marengo, Marshall, Mobile, Monroe, Morgan, Perry, Pickens, Randolph, Shelby, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Wilcox, Winston

  • Map Symbol for Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Map Symbol for Semi-Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Map Symbol for Old Sightings Sightings more than 10 years ago

High count(s):

  • 23 - Bibb - 4/7/2012
  • 10 - Clay - 10/2/1999
  • 10 - Jefferson - 3/30/2000
County Distribution Map

View county names by moving the mouse over a county or view a map with county names

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
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Usually moist woodlands, but may be found near any accessible open space

Host and Nectar Plants

Plants in the Nettle family (Urticaceae) are reported in other areas. 

False Nettle and European Stinging Nettle have been documented in Alabama, although other nettles may also be used.

For more information about the documented host plants and/or nectar plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the following links:

Landscaping Ideas

Let False Nettle grow in out-of-the-way places to benefit butterflies like Eastern Commas, Question Marks, and Red Admirals.