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.
Scientific Name: Vanessa virginiensis
Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 44mm to 54mm (1.72in to 2.11in)
Colors: white; black; brown; gray; orange; pink; blue
Descriptors: eyespots, lady, four legs, flying, pollinator
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.
Butterfly and Moth Anatomy
Antennae: Butterflies and Moths have a pair of antennae on the head used as sensors.
Head: The head is home to the insect's eyes, antennae, and proboscis.
Thorax: Home to the three pairs of legs as well as vital internal organs.
Abdomen: Contains vital internal organs such as the heart(s) and reproduction facilities.
Forewing: The upper, forward wing pair used for flying.
Hindwing: The lower, rearward wing pair used for flying.
NOTE: Butterflies and Moths are part of the Lepidopteran order as they share many similarities.