American Lady, Vanessa virginiensis

American Lady

Vanessa virginiensis

Above, the American Lady is an orange butterfly, with a black apex with white spots in the forewing, and thin dark lines in the forewing. Below, this species has cobweb-like white lines on a dark background color, a reddish/pink color on the forewing, and a characteristic two large spots on the hindwing.

Found in a variety of open habitats including old fields, meadows, and roadsides where their major host plants, Pussytoes and Pearly Everlasting, are found.

Overwintering Strategy:   Small Migration

Several broods. In most years this species can be found in early May, probably immigrants from farther south. These mate, lay eggs, and a new generation emerges in July, and then a second brood emerges later in the summer and into the fall.

Caterpillar Host Plants:
Plants in the sunflower family: Sweet everlasting (Gnaphalium obtusifolium), Pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea), Plantain-leaved pussy toes (Antennaria plantaginifolia), and Ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata)

The American Lady, Painted Lady, and the Red Admiral are all very familiar butterflies throughout the United States, but despite their abundance and wide distribution there is still confusion about their migration and ability to overwinter in the northern states such as Wisconsin.

Overwintering Strategy

Two-way migration: Adult migrates from Wisconsin to Central Mexico
Small migration: Adult migrates from Wisconsin to southern US
Immigrant: Adult migrates into Wisconsin from warmer areas and don't fly south in winter
Adult Butterfly: Hibernates overwinter as an adult butterfly
Eggs: Eggs laid on stems, twigs or foot plants overwinter in diapause
Caterpillar: Caterpillars make nests on the base of plants and hibernate until spring
Chrysalis: Caterpillars shed their last skin, form a chrysalis and enter diapause.

For more information, read: Where Do Butterflies Go In Winter?

Further Information:   

 Design A Butterfly Garden
 Take The Butterfly Quiz
 Monarch Life Cycle
 Butterflies and Moths of North America
 Southern Wisconsin Butterfly Assn (NABA)
 The Butterfly Site

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