Issue Date: 11/07/2013
Issue Name: Butterflies - The Red Admiral
Producer: Buckingham Covers
Butterflies are a classic topic popular with collectors and the public alike. The Butterflies issue, celebrating the British love of butterflies, is an exceptional set of 10 stamps which we have split over two covers. This cover features 5 of the Buterfly stamps along with a Welwyn Garden City postmark, and is available signed by Partick Barkham.
The Red Admiral
Red admirals are to be found in most flowery places in urban and rural locations, feeding on a variety of flowers, basking in the sunshine. They have dark black-brown wings, each with an orange-red band. The fore wing tips are black with white spots; the underside is orange, blue and white, while the hind wings are camouflaged dark brown. The caterpillars eat stinging nettles whilst adults drink nectar from flowers, particularly buddleia. In autumn you will find them feeding on rotting fruit.
During the summer females lay single eggs on the growing tips of nettles. The eggs are very tiny, less than 1mm, and strongly ribbed. After 4-5 days the caterpillar has developed and may be seen inside the eggshell. It has a blackish head and cream body when first hatched. This darkens as the caterpillar develops after the first moult and they turn into bristly caterpillars with a pale yellow stripe running down each side. Each caterpillar spins a tent around itself by fastening a young leaf double with silk. Four weeks later caterpillars pupate in a similar ‘tent’.
Red Admirals are migrant, moving south for the winter. After hibernation, the adults have a strong urge to fly northwards, bringing immigrants from the Continent throughout the summer. By mid-August they start to return south, leading to a build up in southern England in autumn. Adults may hibernate in England, usually choosing an exposed site such as a tree trunk, and many perish.
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Patrick Barkham was born in 1975 in Norfolk and is Natural History Writer for the Guardian. He is the author of The Butterfly Isles, which was shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize; Badgerlands, which was also shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize and the Wainwright Prize, and Coastlines.