White Admiral

Limenitis camilla


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Limenitis camilla

Male, Switzerland, June 2018

Limenitis camilla

Females (I think), Switzerland, June 2018

Limenitis camilla

Female, Switzerland, July 2018

Limenitis camilla

Switzerland, June 2017

Limenitis camilla

 Group taking minerals on carnivore dung, Switzerland, June 2014

Limenitis camilla

Group on horse dung, Switzerland, June 2014

Limenitis camilla

Group on horse dung, Switzerland, June 2014

Limenitis camilla

Switzerland, July 2012

Switzerland, June 2005

Suffolk, UK, July 1986

France, July 2006

Switzerland, July 2006

Oxfordshire, June 2006

Limenitis camilla egg

Egg, Switzerland, July 2015

Limenitis camilla egg

Egg, Switzerland, July 2015

Limenitis camilla egg

Egg, Switzerland, July 2016

Limenitis camilla egg

Egg, Switzerland, July 2017

Limenitis camilla caterpillar hatching

Caterpillar hatching, Switzerland, August 2015

Limenitis camilla caterpillar

Caterpillar eating egg, Switzerland, August 2015

Limenitis camilla 1st instar larva

1st instar caterpillar, August 2014

Limenitis camilla first instar larva

1st instar caterpillar, August 2014

Limenitis camilla leaf damage

Characteristic summer leaf damage by white admiral caterpillars

Limenitis camilla larva

2nd instar caterpillar, August 2014

Limenitis camilla larva

2nd instar caterpillar, August 2014

Limenitis camilla larva

Caterpillar, May 2014

Limenitis camilla caterpillar

Caterpillar, Switzerland, May 2014

Limenitis camilla caterpillar

Caterpillar, Switzerland, May 2014

Limenitis camilla larva

Final instar caterpillar, May 2014

Limenitis camilla hibernaculum

Freshly made hibernaculum on still green leaves, Switzerland, September 2015

Limenitis camilla hibernaculum

Caterpillar in fresh hibernaculum, Switzerland, September 2015


White admiral hibernaculum

Hibernaculum, Switzerland, November 2014

Limenitis camilla hibernaculum

Caterpillar in hibernaculum, Switzerland, April 2016

White admiral hibernaculum

Glimpse of caterpillar within hibernaculum, Switzerland, November 2014

Limenitis camilla distribution

Distribution

The white admiral is a wonderful butterfly, associated with high summer in old woodlands, where it swoops along rides, defends territories from shoulder-high perches or feeds avidly on bramble blossom. In the UK it is one of the few butterflies whose range has spread in recent decades, though it remains local there. Across Europe more generally it is a familiar sight from late June until August or even September.

Adults are much smaller than poplar admirals and unlikely to be confused with these. They are superficially similar to southern white admirals but sooty brown above, rather than gleaming blue-black, and with an orange, rather than reddish underside. They have a double row of postdiscal dark spots on the underside (and usually on the upperside too), rather than a single row. Their habits are also very different. Southern white admiral males defend territories from high perches, often on leaves overhanging paths or clearings, their wings folded above their back and their eyes alert. I have never seen white admirals doing this. They do settle on leaves between territorial swoops but never in this poised, almost predatory way. They also come readily to the ground to take minerals, singly or in groups. Near Geneva I have seen groups of dozens - maybe even hundreds - of white admirals gathering at horse dung along tracks.

The foodplants are honeysuckles - fly honeysuckle in most of Europe (certainly, in Switzerland) but common honeysuckle in the UK. Eggs are laid in July and August on the upper surfaces of leaves. When they hatch, the tiny caterpillars first eat the egg then move to the tip of the leaf, where they begin feeding, making scything cuts into the leaf. Between bouts of feeding they rest up on the midriff of the leaf, which they extend with frass, resulting in an unmistakable pattern. During the summer and early autumn they scythe their way further and further into the leaf, occasionally changing leaves, until the time comes for them to construct their hibernaculum. This they do by cutting and tailoring a leaf before sewing it up with silk to make a tent-like shelter. These shelters may take many forms and be completely closed or partly open. They are securely attached to the stem with silk, so do not fall during the winter. The caterpillar will pass the cold months here, before emerging when the leaves unfold again in April. There is a single brood each year.