Invasion of red admirals signals a spring butterfly burst in Northeast Ohio
Posted May 07, 2012 in Articles
Author: Michael Scott
Red admirals are taking over Northeast Ohio.
Naturalists, teachers, backyard nature lovers -- and yes, lepidopterists, especially -- are noticing unusually high numbers of the red-and-black winged butterfly this spring. The butterfly burst is likely both from a larger emergence of the native species and waves of migrants from southern states, experts say.
The red admiral (Vanessa atalanta) can sometimes survive winter in Ohio and much of the eastern United States, but also migrates each spring as far as Canada. It is also a member of a ridiculously ubiquitous butterfly genus found on all seven continents.
Still, red admirals often go less noticed by the general public in the shadow of the undisputed king of migratory butterflies, the better-known Monarch.
"But this year it's like a red admiral explosion, so everybody's talking about them," said Cynthia Druckenbrod, director of horticulture and conservation at the Cleveland Botanical Garden. "It's a very pretty butterfly and every once in a while its population spikes for reasons we don't always understand."
Which makes for a perfect teachable moment, said Al DiScenna, a third-grade teacher at Mercer Elementary in Shaker Heights.
"We've just started talking about it with the kids this week after really noticing them over the last couple of days," said DiScenna, whose classes are often outdoors to make scientific observations of nature. "A student brought in some photos and a video and I was able to identify it, so we've started learning a little more.