The wingspan of the red admiral is 55 millimetres. It is easily recognisable by its brownish-black colouring above, with white spots and four orange bands. As a caterpillar it grows up to 35 millimetres long, ranging from yellowish-brown to black, with a row of yellow spots on each side. It has short black spines and is heavily speckled with white.
Inhabiting open landscapes, gardens, fields, hedges and the outskirts of forests, the red admiral is found in Europe, northern Africa, Asia Minor, North and Central America, the Canary Islands and the Azores.
The diurnal red admiral breeds once or twice per year. Adults spend the winters asleep. Its larva stage lasts about one month. Caterpillars feed on stinging nettles, where they hide between two leaves spun together with silk.