My wife counted 1 Question Mark and 20 Red Admirals in our yard in the space of five minutes! It would appear that they are being blown in on the strong, south-westerly winds. I was still seeing admirals in downtown Peterborough at 6:00 p.m., flying about in shaded areas.The admirals I saw today were all very aggressive and continually chasing each other, often in groups of 3 or 4. Many perched on the lawn for several second before taking off again to “chase” another individual.

Normally, Red Admirals seen in Ontario have migrated up from the southern U.S. It is believed that the species is unable to overwinter in Canada. According to Massachusetts Audubon, “the first Red Admirals usually appear in the state after the first week in May. This early flight represents migrants from overwintering populations in the South (c. North Carolina southward).” Obviously, a mid-April arrival in central Ontario has to be seen as extremely early! Red Admirals are a holarctic species and are seen throughout Europe and Central Asia. Huge migrations are also recorded in these areas.

Here are a few other facts of interest:

– the migration was noted throughout northeastern North America

– many of the butterflies were seen nectaring on dandelions, coltsfoot, flowering fruit trees, etc. There were many on-line reports of flowering trees and shrubs covered with Red Admirals

– a hawk watch on Lake Erie counted about 140 going by per minute and easily 5000 for the day

– they appeared to start arriving on Sunday (London area, for example) but the bulk of them did not arrive until Monday. The movement had been noted in the Minneapolis area, however, as early as Saturday, April 14.

– on-line reports from Texas say that Red Admirals were abundant all winter long in the state, mostly because of the return of the rain and a profusion of wildflowers. It would seem that many of the butterflies originated from Texas but that has yet to be confirmed.

– significant numbers of admirals arrived in 2007 & 2010, as well

– There is actually a red admiral research project looking at things such as how movement of air masses and weather fronts affect Red Admiral movement and final distribution. Go to: to report your observations

– whether they will survive the cold night temperatures is unclear. However, they are a hairy butterfly and have been recorded flying at night and at sub-zero temperatures in Europe. Hopefully, they will have been able to take advantage of warm micro-climates such as deep grass or fallen leaves to avoid freezing

– Red Admiral caterpillars feed on nettles.. At this time of year, the adults will nectar on any flower they can find such as fruit tree blossoms, dandelions and coltsfoot flowers. They are already busy laying eggs on the nettle; these will hatch and mature for a

Categories: Sightings

Drew Monkman

I am a retired teacher, naturalist and writer with a love for all aspects of the natural world, especially as they relate to seasonal change.