The Red Admiral and Question Mark

For a rare and up close look at the beautiful and elusive Red Admiral and Question Mark butterflies:

Go to the Jefferson-Madison library on Market Street, in Charlottesville, right away! Upon approaching the front of the library, visit the medium sized white oak tree to the left of the steps.


This oak tree has a small wound at the base of its trunk. The wound is fizzing, bubbling, and spewing a yummy concoction…yummy to insects anyway. It must be a mix of sugars and minerals. When you find it, just sit. Red admirals and question marks visit the sipping spot regularly. They have been there all day, every day, for at least a week!

If you stand under the tree, and scan the middle and upper branches you’ll begin to see several butterflies perching. They alight upon the branches between sippings. You will have to look closely and patiently, as the butterflies are camouflaged and look like dried leaves and bark when in resting position.

European hornet, Vespa crabro

Be sure to take care, and watch from a comfortable distance. Frisky yellow jackets and quarrelling giant hornets will be there as well. A wide variety of big and small flies enjoy the treat, but a few of them become treats…as they are snatched by jumping spiders that lurk around the edges of the wound. What an amazing little habitat and food web!
Red admiral, Vanessa atalanta.

One thought on “The Red Admiral and Question Mark

  1. Donna Watkins says:

    Thank you so much for this post! It is truly amazing how a little bit of habitat will attract so much diversity. I love it.

    My main reason in posting is to thank you for the revelation of the "substance" from the wound of the tree. This is what I thought was the occasion for a bunch of Red-spotted Purple Admiral butterflies on an area of a willow tree that had a branch taken off of it a week earlier. See Photo:
    http://donnawatkins.smugmug.com/Bluebird-Cove-Our-Home-In/2010-Bluebird-Cove-Critters/11141978_qztnF#966647199_dTPZo-A-LB

    I have a video with flies competing and this one with a wasp trying to get a sip:
    http://donnawatkins.smugmug.com/Videos/Bluebird-Cove-Videos/8586533_FGUAv#965199515_nSLcK-A-LB

    Amazing that this is right in downtown Cville at the library. I'm amazed at what you find in the city. We live out in Palmyra on one acre of habitat we've developed. The joys of this kind of entertainment are too much for words.

    Thank you for your blog! It's very cool knowing that somebody else is sharing nature in the area too. My blog is The Nature In Us:
    http://www.thenatureinus.com

    There are those of us who can't help but shout about the wonders of this world. So glad to find you!

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