Vanessa itea (Fabricius, 1775)
Yellow Admiral
(previously known as Bassaris itea)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Vanessa itea
(Specimen: courtesy of Helen Schwencke, Brisbane, Queensland)

The eggs of this species are are green, barrel-shaped, and ribbed. They are often laid in pairs on a foodplant.

The caterpillar is dark brown with two pale lines along the back. The caterpillar is covered in rows of branched spines. It feeds nocturnally on various plants from the Nettle family ( URTICACEAE ), including :

  • Shade Pellitory ( Parietaria debilis ),
  • Australian Mulberry ( Pipturus argenteus ),
  • Scrub Nettle ( Urtica incisa ), and
  • Small Nettle ( Urtica urens ).

    Vanessa itea
    (Photo: courtesy of Ken Harris, Morwell Park, Victoria)

    During daylight, the caterpillar hides in a curled up leaf. It grows to a length of about 3 centimetres.

    Vanessa itea
    (Photo: courtesy of Ken Harris, Morwell Park, Victoria)

    The pupa is brown and spiky, with two white spots on each side. It is formed suspended from a cremaster, usually on some adjacent wall or fence. It has a length of about 2 cms.

    Vanessa itea

    The adult butterflies have a wing span around 6 cms. They are orange and black with a big pale yellow patch on each forewing.

    Vanessa itea
    (Photo: courtesy of Bruce Anstee, Riverstone, New South Wales)

    The undersides have a mottled brown pattern on the hindwings, and have a pale yellow patch each side of a blue eyespot under each forewing. The butterflies only have four legs.

    Vanessa itea
    (Photo: courtesy of Ian McMillan, Imbil, Queensland)

    A real speed demon, these butterflies always seem to be in a hurry. When they land they flash their wings to display that bright yellow spot. An impressive sight. The adult butterflies sometimes congregate on the damaged trunks of Gum Trees ( Eucalyptus, MYRTACEAE ), to feed on the sap flow.

    Vanessa itea
    (New Zealand Post, 1991)

    They may be found in

  • New Zealand,

    and all over Australia including:

  • Western Australia,
  • Northern Territory,
  • Queensland,
  • New South Wales,
  • Victoria,
  • Tasmania, and
  • South Australia.

    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 2, pp. 582-583.

    Johan Christian Fabricius,
    Classi VI. Glossata,
    Mantisssa Insectorum,
    Volume 2 (1787), p. 45, No. 438.

    Frank Jordan & Helen Schwencke,
    Create More Butterflies : a guide to 48 butterflies and their host-plants
    Earthling Enterprises, Brisbane, 2005, p. 49.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 24 January 2013, 20 September 2013, 12 April 2015, 30 June 2020)