American Lady

Vanessa virginiensis

Summary 5

The American Painted Lady or American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) is a butterfly found throughout North America. Migrants arrive end of March or April in southern New Jersey and get into southern Canada in May. They then occur as breeders all summer and fall if conditions are favorably, usually with the last observations in late November or December in New Jersey. These observations and dates are similar for much of the eastern USA. Regular observations from mid January through February would strongly indicate overwintering.

Description 6

Vanessa virginiensis is most easily distinguishable by its two large eyespots on the ventral side, whereas V. cardui has four small eyespots. Vanessa virginiensis also uniquely features a white dot within the forewing subapical 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 V. virginiensis.

A less reliable indicator is the row of black eyespots on the dorsal submarginal hind wing. In the American painted lady, those on the opposite ends of the row are often larger and have blue "pupils". 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.

Larva Description 7

Larva is black with a complex pattern of yellow or white bands and lateral spots. The spines are black with a red base (Layberry et al. 1998).

Larval Host Plants 8

Vanessa virginiensis (the American painted lady) larval host plants are herbaceous and include species from many families with a preference for Asteraceae (tribe Inuleae), but also including Borginaceae, Fabaceae, Malvaceae, Urticaceae, Balsaminaceae, and Scrophulariaceae.

GTM Occurrence 9

The American Lady is considered a rare species at the GTM. Most observations are in the open habitat along Transect A. A single individual was observed along the Red Bay Walk (Transect D). This species is most abundant in April with one record in November. There have been 6 specimens observed as of December 28, 2015.

Distribution 10

Southern Canada (one record from Churchill, MB) south to Colombia (Opler 1999).

Habitat 11

Comments: Any disturbed or otherwise open setting with foodplants, easily locating even small forest openings. A transient colonizer and long distance migrant not capable of surviving year round in much of its range.

Nature serve conservation status 12

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Widespread, abundant, and tolerates disturbance.

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) Anne Toal, some rights reserved (CC BY),
  2. (c) John Flannery, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA),
  3. (c) John Flannery, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA),
  4. (c) gtmresearchreserve, all rights reserved, uploaded by GTMResearchReserve,
  5. Adapted by GTMResearchReserve from a work by (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA),
  6. (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA),
  7. Adapted by GTMResearchReserve from a work by (c) University of Alberta Museums, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC),
  8. Adapted by GTMResearchReserve from a work by (c) Leslie Ries, some rights reserved (CC BY),
  9. (c) GTMResearchReserve, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA)
  10. (c) University of Alberta Museums, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC),
  11. (c) NatureServe, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC),
  12. (c) NatureServe, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC),

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