Filming VarWild: Vanessa atalanta

Life cycle of butterflies in Provence

The Red Admiral(Vanessa atalanta (Linnaeus, 1768))

The Red Admiral, family Nymphalidae, remains active all year long provided that the temperature reaches 15°C and can spend the winter as an imago, egg, caterpillar or chrysalis, but it is mostly butterflies that overwinter in a pile of stones, rock cracks or Ivy.

North of the Alps, the Red Admiral migrates to the south to overwinter. Males are territorial but change territory every two to three days and very quickly the post is occupied by another male. From January on, as soon as the temperature rises, the female lays a single green egg at a time on the leaves of Nettle or Lichwort, an emblematic plant of old dry stone walls. It frequents preferentially edges and sunny glades.

The caterpillar creates a shelter by folding a leaf using silk threads and comes out only to feed or change shelter after moulting. In its last stage, the caterpillar gnaws the petiole, so that the upper part of the Nettle hangs freely, and then assembles the adjoining leaves with silk threads to create a more spacious shelter. At maturity, the caterpillar becomes a nymph on the host plant and then turns into a chrysalis.

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