Butterflies of New
New Zealand Red
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
Tribe - NYMPHALINI
New Zealand Red Admiral
© Tony Wills
Vanessa comprises of about 20 species
worldwide. The genus is divided into 2 groups - the Painted Ladies
and the Red Admirals.
The Red Admiral
atalanta which occurs in Europe, Asia,
north Africa and throughout North America;
indica which is found in temperate regions of Asia;
gonerilla from New Zealand, and the
Yellow Admiral itea ( incorrectly
placed in another genus Bassaris by
some workers ) which is found in Australia and New Zealand, and also
on Loyalty Island and Norfolk Island.
is endemic to New Zealand and is found on both islands.
This species is very widespread in New Zealand and can be found in
almost any habitat where the larval foodplants grow, and there are
nectar sources available for the adults.
The egg is green with 9 prominent vertical keels. It is laid singly on
or near the stem of a stinging nettle Urtica
dioica or on a leaf stalk of the nettle tree
Urtica ferox. The larva lives solitarily
within a shelter made by folding over a nettle leaf and fastening it
with a few strands of silk. The fully grown larva is black and has
branched dorsal and lateral spikes on each segment. There is a pale
yellow zig-zag stripe below the spiracles, interrupted on each segment
by a reddish spike. There are also thinner pale yellow dorsal and
subdorsal stripes. The pupa is straw coloured, mottled with pale brown
or dark purplish brown. It is suspended by the cremaster from a stem
of nettle or a nearby twig or plant stalk.
Vanessa gonerilla is a fairly common
butterfly but its numbers have decreased in recent decades, possibly
as a result of the introduction of Pteromalus
puparum, a parasitoid wasp imported from Europe to control the
Large White butterfly Pieris brassicae.
Males commonly bask on the ground,
waiting to fly up and intercept passing females. Both sexes visit a
wide variety of nectar sources, and visit sap runs on trees.