The red admiral is a butterfly native to much of North America, and it is usually seen fairly frequently in spring. This year, the population of red admiral butterflies in Illinois has increased quite a bit, and they have also appeared earlier than they normally would have. People think that this is because of the very warm weather we had earlier this spring, since most animals appear in the spring due to warmer weather. However, it has temporarily become cold again, which is probably confusing for the butterflies — but they are staying out and are quite the sight to see around the neighborhood.
Red admirals can be identified by the vibrant red or orange stripes on their wings. The rest of their wings are black with white spots, and these butterflies are often mistaken for painted lady butterflies. Painted ladies are different, however, in that the majority of their wings are orange or red, rather than just stripes. Painted ladies and red admirals are relatively closely related, as well as look similar, so it is easy to see why they are often confused.
Right now is a good time to attract these lovely butterflies, especially since they are in such abundance. Red admirals drink from flowers heavy with nectar, but they also like drinking from fruit that is past its ripeness. So if you put orange slices on your birdfeeder to attract orioles, they are very likely to attract red admirals. It might be a good idea to put the fruit somewhere other than near the birdfeeder, however, because certain birds eat butterflies.
Aside from fruit, most plants that attract other butterflies will attract red admirals. Large, colorful flowers with easily accessible nectar are generally best, and they also make your garden look quite nice. Take advantage of this surge of butterflies and attract some red admirals to your garden!