Lady Butterflies: Vanessa
Four native Vanessa species, the American Lady, Painted Lady, Red-Admiral, West Coast Lady, live in North America.
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Often the genus Vanessa gets referred to as the lady butterflies.
Despite the presence of the Red-Admiral, the group can be physically distinguished from the Admirals (Limenitis genus) based on the patterns on the underside of the wings, which have a more leafy or camouflage appearance than Admiral wings.
The American Lady, Painted Lady and West Coast Lady share similar wing patterns from a top view perspective. All three also share an overlapping range in the Western United States, sometimes making field identification a confusing task.
The first picture shows a top view of the American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis). It includes a line and white dot notation. The white dot is a basic field identification mark for the species.
The second picture (immediately above this line) shows a top view of the West Coast Lady (Vanessa annabella). Note the absence of a white dot on the wings. The bottom of the wings also shows a pattern of four blue dots circled in black, another field identification mark.
From a distance, the Painted Lady (not shown) looks to have black or dark dots on the bottom of the wing, with no white dot on the forewing.
The Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta), one of four different butterflies in the Vanessa genus, can be found in fields, forests and cities around the United States.
Contrary to the name, they do not belong to the Limenitidinae subfamily of Admirals and their relatives, however, the red stripe on the forewing show a resemblance to the stripes in Admiral butterflies.
The caterpillars feed on plants in the nettle family, a very common group of plants. Rotten fruit is the preferred food for adults.
© 2008-2011 Patricia A. Michaels