American Painted Lady

(Vanessa virginiensis)

American Painted Lady Butterfly:

Although this Painted Lady is wide spread throughout the United states and lower Canada, this butterfly is more commonly seen in the East than it is in the West.

It is on the wing from spring to fall and can be seen year round in some warmer regions in the deep South.

Like the closely related Painted Lady (Cosmopolitan), its numbers fluctuate from year to year as weather and predators play a huge factor in their numbers.

American Painted Lady

With its exquisitely, brightly colored upper side, and many-patterned underside, this butterfly is truly a sight to see.


The American Painted Lady is mostly orange above, with black and white wing tips and blue spots on the hind wings.

The upper side with uneven brown, yellow, and orange pattern. The fore-wing with a black apical patch, a small white spot in the orange field below the patch, and a white bar at the leading edge of the fore-wing.

The underside of hind-wing has two large eyespots.

The winter form is smaller and paler, summer form larger with brighter coloring.

Wing span varies from 1 and 3/4 to 2 and 1/4 inches, making this a medium sized butterfly.

American Painted Lady,
Habits, Hosts, and Larvae


The Painted Lady favors open, sunny areas,

like open fields, meadows, parks and your gardens.


During the afternoon, males perch on hilltops or on low vegetation if there are no hills. Females lay eggs singly on the top of host plant leaves.

They also gather at watering holes (wet areas) to suck up a good drink of water.

Caterpillars are solitary, living and feeding in a nest of leaves tied with silk.

Adults hibernate.

Unlike its cousin the Cosmopolitan, this butterfly is only occasionally migratory.

There are three to four broods from May-November, all year in the Deep South and South Texas. It is not known if adults can survive very cold winters; the East may have to be recolonized each year by southern migrants.

Host plants and larvae:

American Painted Lady Larvae

The Painted Lady Larvae feed on various plants in the sunflower family everlasting, pearly everlasting, plantain-leaved pussy toes, wormwood, ironweed), and burdock.

The larvae is black with yellow cross bands and a row of white spots on the sides.

Nectar plants:

Marigolds (Tagetes), goldenrod (Solidago), aster (Aster), butterfly bush, (Buddleia davidii) and a host of other nectar rich blooms.

Plant several of these in your gardens to attract various butterflies.

Resident in the southern United States, Mexico, and Central America south to Colombia.

Migrates to and temporarily colonizes the northern United States, southern Canada, the West Indies, and Europe. Rare stray to Newfoundland and Labrador.

American Painted Lady and Other Common Butterflies

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