An Admirable Butterfly June 21, 2007
We seem to be having a bumper crop of them this summer. A common butterfly, to be sure, but none the less a virtual bouquet on wings. This is a Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta, a butterfly found on several continents, and said to have once been called the Red "Admirable" in England. Indeed it is attractive and admirable as insects go :)
This brush-footed butterfly, is a member of the family Nymphalidae. You need to look closely to see six legs on these insects. The first pair of legs are shortened, and resemble modified "brushes". The other four legs are the standard issue for butterflies, and the ones used for walking around. Although, they seem to prefer fluttering at high speed and darting about in an aggressive manner.
Their larva are found on nettles, often stinging ones. This could be a clever ploy to protect larva from grazing animals, a fate that often awaits the grass-feeding skipper larva. Being an insect is dangerous work, because it is really an "insect eat insect" world. And they are all on the bottom of the food chain, even the admirable ones.