I reckon there is a good chance that this autumn you will have had the pleasure of seeing a Red Admiral. Or two. Or twenty.

While many of our butterflies have been struggling in recent years, at least this beauty has had a good year, and recently they have been on the wing in numbers.

They are found either sunning themselves, or feeding on Ivy, ripe blackberries, Buddleia x weyeriana (the yellow one), juicy windfall apples, and here at Wisley last week I photographed one of several that were on Ageratina altissima 'Braunlaub'.

Many have been freshly emerged and pristine, although some have clearly been in the wars, in particular with cobwebs, like this one on a dahlia in my garden:

We can all see where the 'Red' bit in the name comes from, but what is the origin of the word 'Admiral'?

Well, for many years I was under the enticing but wayward idea that it was a corruption of the word 'Admirable'.

But no, no, and thrice no! The original name was Admiral, as in the Admiral flag, which has all the busy bits up in the top corner, like this blue ensign from the 17th century.


It was only later than the name got changed to Admirable, because it seemed to fit, which then got changed back again!

With so many Red Admirals around this year, most are identically attired, but if we get another sunny day or two, it is worth playing the 'spot the difference' game because about one in six have a little white spot in the red bar across the forewing, like this one

And if we have a mild winter, it is very possible that many will sucessfully overwinter, either as adults, eggs or caterpillars, very different from the past when almost all were killed by the cold and we had to wait until a new generation arrived from the continent the following spring.