The White Admiral is a beautiful woodland butterfly, and with a wingspan ranging from 5.5 to 6.5cm it is quite conspicuous.
The undersides of the wings are more strikingly coloured than the rather subdued uppersides, which are black with white bands; they carry a double row of black dots near the edge of the hindwing, which contrasts with a single row on the hindwings of the Southern White Admiral.
Never abundant, White Admirals occur mainly in southern England and south-east Wales, although with the the climate of Britain warming up their range has been gradually extending further north. On mainland Europe the White Admiral is most commonly seen in central countries notably France and Germany and in a broad band across to Turkey and onwards through central Asia to include Japan. The northern range of this butterfly does not include Scandinavia, and to the south it is found in only the most northerly parts of Spain.
We photographed the specimen shown above in central Bulgaria.
From eggs laid in late summer on Honeysuckle, Lonicera periclymenum, spiny brown larvae hatch in a few days and begin feeding on the leaves of this climbing plant rather than on its very beautiful scented flowers. (Honeysuckle flowers are very attractive to many kinds of butterflies, however, because they are an abundant source of nectar.) The caterpillars overwinter in a curled up drief leaf, reawakening in the springtime and resuming feeding on new growth of the foodplant; they pupate attached to Honeysuckle stems.
This page includes pictures kindly contributed by Betty and Tony Rackham and by James Wainscoat.
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