A beauty, though small, stirs my curiosity as he flutters by, giving me very little time to capture his image with my camera. A Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta. A butterfly that you just might see if you put overripe fruit out on your back porch, since this is a favorite food. Also at the top of the culinary treats they enjoy, are sap flows in trees such as these, pictured below, created by Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers.
The Red Admiral has a wing span of about 2 inches or just a smidgeon more, and appears to have bunches of nervous energy, much like a fidgety little kid.
Here in central Virginia, in the Blue Ridge Mountains, there is an abundance of the native plant, Wood Nettle. As larvae, Red Admirals dine on plants of the nettle family, including Wood Nettle, Laportea canadensis. The image below is Wood Nettle, a perennial herbaceous plant with upper leaves that are alternate. The flowers you see in this photo are male flowers.
Female flowers form on the same plant, and bloom at the top of the plant, as shown in the next image.
This is not a plant that you want to brush against, since it causes an instant, unpleasant, burning and itching feeling. Fortunately this irritating sensation lasts for just a short time, but it’s best just to avoid it.
Given the wealth of Wood Nettle along the trails here in the mountains, I do not wonder at all why these beautiful butterflies accompany me as I hike these mountain trails.
Butterflies mostly black, with brilliant red, bright blue, and striking white dots. I welcome their company.