LATE red admiral- Where do they go?

coolbutterfly(5A)October 17, 2013

I saw a red admiral playing with fire (or should I say ICE) in Minnesota today.

It looked newly hatched. We are a good week past our avg first frost date and it's finally going to freeze this weekend.

It was only 60 degrees today, but there was no wind and it felt warmer. A beautiful bonus day to our 2013 season.

There is still lots of nectar to be had in the garden and there were honey bees stocking up too. I hope the RA got what it needed and flew south like the wind! There'll be no more nectar after this weekend... Tony

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..or it could hibernate locally.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 11:00PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

Thanks, Larry. I'm glad to know they hibernate. They are the most common butterfly in my yard and I get quite a flurry of them in the spring. I keep searching the woods for nettles so I can collect seeds and expand on them, but I haven't found any stinging nettles, yet.


    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 7:50AM
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dr.liz(7 NJ)

I find this rather confusing too. According to the BAMONA website, most red admirals do not survive cold winters and much of North America has to be recolonized every year by Southern migrants. That seems to me to leave half of the lifecycle incomplete. In other words, where do all those southern butterflies come from that make the trip north? Do they breed all winter long further south to build up the population?

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 1:59PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I don't understand how this works either, but I do know that here red admirals fly on sunny winter days every year. They then lay eggs on the false nettles in early spring, I raise and release many of them, and I continue to see at least one male on my gravel road in late evenings into the summer. I haven't seen any for a while, as usual for this time of year, so I'm assuming they come from up north, where they start the process all over again.


    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 3:20PM
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Coolbutterfly- I was wondering the same thing. Yesterday I took photos of 3 Red A, 1 common buckeye, 1 American L and several monarchs here in New York. The monarchs are getting ready to leave but what about the rest?

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 10:52PM
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It may depend on how snug the hibernating nook or cranny is for survival of overwintering northern RAs. They are apparently common in a Michigan yard in the spring, perhaps too early for them to have been arrivals from down south.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 11:14PM
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I see hundreds of RAs in the Spring after a warm Winter and few to none after a colder one.
I think they may hibernate locally during these warmer spells (2011/2012, esp) and swarm in the Spring.
Otherwise, they get frozen back down South by cold winters and take a while to migrate back up North.
American Ladies always seem to be around early, as soon as their hosts get a couple inches high. They are very cold tolerant and their cats don't mind cool nights. In fact, they fare better c the greatly reduced threat of wasps, which prefer hot summer days.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 2:40AM
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Martha, Late next month (if I can manage to have them ready by that time) I'll be giving away various kinds of seeds for a SASBE. False nettle is one of the seeds. If you'd like to try it, maybe you want to wait and see if there is anything else from my list that you'd like. I've gotten to raise Red Admirals because of having false nettle. Personally, I'd rather have false nettle than stinging nettle. I'm already allergic to many of the plants that I grow for the butterflies and would hate to think how I'd react to stinging nettle. Just the name scares me away. ;-)

    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 6:57PM
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Thanks Larry, It's good to hear they hibernate. My guess was they didn't because I don't normally see them in spring...although during the EARLY spring of 2012 tons of them migrated north. A spectacular display! Tony

    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 9:27PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I saw the first red admiral I've seen in a while on the road today, dusk hadn't even arrived. I imagine it's here for the winter.


    Bookmark   October 22, 2013 at 6:15PM
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Thx Larry & Leafhead. It's very good info. Sherry- I wish I lived where it's warm and I can see butterflies all year round...


    Bookmark   October 22, 2013 at 8:32PM
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You and me both, Nerry!

    Bookmark   October 23, 2013 at 12:05PM
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Oddly enough, I had a few RA cats during the summer...very unusual. After that time, I saw no more, even now I haven't seen a single one. Sometimes I see RA's during the winter. They like the Rue bushes that bloom in winter. Other winters, none spotted until February. I haven't seen any Common Buckeyes since spring. Modest numbers of agalinis came up, bloomed and it's all seeding now, no cats.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2013 at 2:12PM
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Have you tried growing False Nettle, or Pellitory?
I don't know how prevalent RAs are in Tx, but they're common in the Midwest in some Springs. I can't keep enough Urtica dioica (I know, OUCH, but it's up early enough) on hand to feed all the cats.
I've tried growing False Nettle, and it comes up in July.
Another + is Stinging Nettles are bunny resistant.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 3:07PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

Could you gather any seeds from the stinging nettles? I have a large forested area that's full of poison ivy already, so stinging nettles would be a perfect addition. Don't get "stung" on my account. You could just snip off a branch into a paper bag, maybe? I can check with Prairiemoon nursery, too.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2013 at 9:21AM
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Sure. I can spare lots. I'll send you an e-mail c my address.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 12:31PM
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