Butterflies of Africa
Abyssinian Red Admiral
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
Tribe - NYMPHALINI
this species was formerly included within the closely allied genus
Antanartia, when it is clear from the
wing shape, pattern and biology that it is more closely related to
the Red Admirals, and belongs in Vanessa.
Vanessa comprises 2 groups of species.
The first group of 11 species were at one time placed within
Cynthia, which includes the Painted
Lady Vanessa cardui - the most widely
distributed species of butterfly in the world. The second group
consists of 10 similarly marked species, known commonly as the Red
The Red Admirals ( the name is
believed to be a corruption of "Red Admirable" ) all share the same
basic pattern, having a blackish-brown ground colour with a bright
orange or red diagonal band on the forewings, a similarly coloured
submarginal band on the hindwings, and a series of small white
subapical spots. The underside hindwings of all Red Admirals are
cryptically patterned in grey and brown, usually with traces of
abyssinica is distributed from Ethiopia to Kenya, Tanzania,
Uganda, Rwanda and Congo.
This species is found in montane habitats, at altitudes between
The larval foodplants include Australina,
and Urtica ( Urticaceae ).
Males are territorial in behaviour, and
perch on low foliage, with their wings held half open, to await
passing females. They are aggressive, intercepting and chasing away
other butterflies, and will even swoop up and "buzz" intruding humans.
In the relatively cool conditions early
in the day, both sexes bask on bare ground, with wings fully
outspread. Once it gets warmer the males will imbibe moisture from
damp patches of ground, and are strongly attracted to urine and dung.
Towards the end of the afternoon both sexes bask on low foliage. As
dusk approaches they move onto tree trunks, where they roost for the
night in a head downwards posture.