American Lady Butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis)
Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the American Lady Butterfly.
Updated: 1/31/2018; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The American Lady's enormous geographic range covers all three countries on her continent - just not all at the same time of year.
The American Lady Butterfly is a member of the Brush-footed butterfly family. It is related to the Painted Lady, the Red Admiral and the West Coast Lady. The front legs are very short and covered with little hairs or bristles, like that of a hairbrush. Because their front legs are so short, they sometimes look as though they only have four legs.
The overhead and underneath coloring of this species is so different that one may think they are looking at two different butterflies. The dorsal (top side) of the forewings and hindwings are orange, black and white. There is a tiny white dot on the middle part of the orange forewing. The hindwings have a row of black dots near the bottom edge. The two largest of these have blue centers. These are most visible when the wings are spread open and flat. If the butterfly's wings are closed, one can see that its ventral side (underneath) is quite patterned. This side of the wings are a mosaic of gray, white and brown with a flash of bright pink on the forewings. The hindwings each have two large eyespots that are useful for identification.
This butterfly prefers sunny, open habitats like fields, canyons and meadows. In the summer months, they can be found in the southern parts of Canada and northern U.S.. Come winter, they migrate to the warmer weather in Mexico and the southern U.S..
Caterpillars of the American Lady eat cudweeds, everlastings, and plants in the aster family. Its body is tubular and black with thin, yellow bands that form rings around its body. Reddish-brown or white spots are interspersed between set of the yellow bands. Bristles protrude from those spotted areas of the body. Two or three generations of this species of butterfly can be born every year.