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White admiral (Limenitis camilla)

This dapper butterfly, white-banded across big black wings, is found exclusively in woods. Unlike most of its sun-loving peers it has benefited from the decline in old-style coppicing, since it prefers a bit of shade.

Common name: white admiral

Latin name: Limentis camilla


Caterpillars:  green and spiny when full-grown.

Adults: unmistakable, with black upper sides intersected by prominent white bars. Brown and white mottled underwing.

Wingspan: 5-6.6cm.

Food plants

Caterpillars: honeysuckle leaves.

Adults: honeydew and nectar from plants such as bramble.

When to spot them

Mid-June to early July.

Where to spot them

White admiral is found in central and southern England, south of a line between South Devon in the west and North Lincolnshire in the east, as well as in a few scattered colonies in the eastern counties of Wales. It is not found in Scotland, Ireland or the Isle of Man. The distribution of this species in the early 1900s had declined to the point that it was restricted to southern England. However, there seems to have been a reversal of fortunes, with the butterfly reaching its former distribution that extends as far north as Lincolnshire. 

Top Woodland Trust woods for white admiral

The species is spreading slowly north and westward as temperatures warm, and happy hunting grounds include Blean Woods near Canterbury, also a stronghold for the rare heath fritillary. Keep an eye out too in Duncliffe Wood at Shaftesbury in Dorset; Aversley Wood near Sawtry in Cambridgeshire; Pepper Wood near Bromsgrove, Worcestershire; Northfield Wood outside Stowmarket in Suffolk; and Bisham Woods, beside the Thames in Berkshire.

Discover white admiral in other woods too. To find woods near you, type your town or postcode into our search box.

Fascinating white admiral facts

  • A butterfly’s sense of taste is 200 times stronger than ours and it can pick up flavour with its feet.
  • Honeysuckle is the favourite food of its rather magnificent caterpillar.
  • Its eggs look like hairy golf balls.
  • Emerging larvae wrap themselves in an ingenious silken leaf-shelter for the winter.
  • One of the UK's most beautiful butterflies.