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The American Painted Lady Butterfly

Posted by AMBIDEXTROUS | Added on : July 17, 2010 01:42am | Last edited: July 17, 2010 02:01am | Viewed 6494 times | 0 Comments


The American Painted Lady Butterfly appears in major summer and fall migrations. It is found in fields, along roadsides and butterfly friendly gardens. They feed on nectar from many flower species, but are partial to yellow flowers.


The American Painted Lady or American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) is a butterfly found throughout North America.  Vanessa virginiensis lives in flowery habitats, usually in mountains. The larvae feed on various Asteraceae, especially the cudweeds of genus Gnaphalium. American Painted Lady caterpillar eats Everlasting, Daisy, Burdock. Its butterfly feeds off Aster, Dogbane, Goldenrod, Mallow, Privet, Vetch.


All stages of the life cycle can be found throughout temperate North America as well as Madeira and the Canary Islands. Occasionally individuals can be found as far as south-west Europe.


The Painted Lady group of colourful butterflies comprises the subgenus Cynthia of the genus Vanessa in the Family Nymphalidae. They are well known throughout most of the world. The group includes: the Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui), which is almost global in its distribution, Australian Painted, Lady (Vanessa kershawi), American (Painted) Lady (Vanessa virginiensis), and West Coast Lady (Vanessa annabella).


Vanessa virginiensis is most easily distinguishable by its two large hindwing eyespots on the ventral side, whereas V. cardui has four small eyespots and V. annabella has none. V. virginiensis also uniquely features a white dot within the subapical field of the forewing field, set in pink on the underside and usually also in the dorsal side's orange field. The largest spot in the black forewing tips is white in V. cardui, pale orange in this species, and orange in the West Coast species. The latter also has a purer orange background color of the dorsal side, as opposed to the darker and (especially in V. virginiensis) redder hue of the other two. A less reliable indicator is the row of black eyespots on the dorsal submarginal hindwing. In the American Painted Lady, those on the opposite ends of the row are often larger and have blue "pupils". In V. annabella, this applies to the inner two spots, while in V. cardui some of the black eyespots may have tiny blue pupils in the summer morph, but usually have none at all, and the eyespots themselves are all roughly the same size. The size of the wings are about 5 cm (2 in) across. The black forewing tips have 4--5 white spots, usually the largest is whitish orange.


The American painted lady is perhaps the most cold tolerant of all the painted ladies and their close relative, the Red Admiral. It is believed many of these butterflies are able to overwinter, even in the northern U.S. While common in the East, its numbers never seem very large in any particular area. In much of the west, its appearance is completely unpredictable. It is an avid flower-visitor and can often be found in gardens with butterfly bushes. The American painted lady used to be called Vanessa huntera,


Similar species: Painted Lady has smaller eyespots below. West Coast Lady has orange bar across black patch.


Life Cycle: Barrel-shaped pale green eggs are laid singly on thistle (Cirsium), Aster or mallow. Caterpillars range up to 1"(35mm). Their color varies from purple with yellow back stripe to chartreuse with black marbled appearance. Chrysalis 1" (25mm) pale green to brown, bumpy, hangs upside down.


Flight: Two or more broods; year-round in south, April-June until frost in north. Habitat: Anywhere; Meadows, fields, open areas.



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