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Species Vanessa annabella - West Coast Lady

West Coast Lady - Vanessa annabella West Coast Lady - Vanessa annabella West Coast Lady - Vanessa annabella West Coast Lady for California in March - Vanessa annabella West Coast Lady in Midwest - Vanessa annabella Vanessa annabella - West Coast Lady - Vanessa annabella Larva - Vanessa annabella butterfly, lady sp ?. - Vanessa annabella
Show images of: caterpillars · adults · both
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
Superfamily Papilionoidea (Butterflies and Skippers)
Family Nymphalidae (Brush-footed Butterflies)
Subfamily Nymphalinae (Crescents, Checkerspots, Anglewings, etc.)
Tribe Nymphalini
Genus Vanessa (Ladies and Red Admiral)
Species annabella (West Coast Lady)
Other Common Names
Western Painted Lady
Dama Cuatro Ojos
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Was known until 1971 as Vanessa carye. Typical V. carye is South American. The two are virtually identical, and morphological differences are minimal and possibly inconsistant. Opinions vary, and the distinction as separate species or not is debated, but it seems possible that V. annabella could eventually be placed back into V. carye, or considered a subspecies of it. Our butterfly can sometimes be found listed under either name.
The most obvious character that separates this from the very similar Painted Lady, is the large subapical bar near the front of the forewing, which is orange on this species (left) and white in The Painted Lady - V. cardui (right). A close look at the dark markings will show lots of other details that are different. The shape of the wings is also somewhat different.

The American Lady - V. virginiensis has only two larger eye spots on the hind wing below, and the wings are shaped differently. Many details of the pattern both above and below are also different, and can be seen easily by comparing photos.
West coast from British Columbia to Guatemala and east to Alberta, Dakotas, w. Nebraska, w. Kansas, w. Oklahoma, and w. Texas; through most of Mexico. Becoming rare at it's eastern limits, where it may not be a permanent resident. Some seasons it strays further east than others, and it may appear far east of its usual distribution.

In South America V. carye continues the distribution from Colombia and Venezuela southward west of the tropical lowlands, and is common through much of Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina.
Not picky, but usually in open sunny areas and an avid visitor of many flowers.
Mostly Urtica (Nettles) and many different Mallows (Malvaceae), but apparently also sometimes on certain Legumes (Alfalfa, Lupine).
Life Cycle
Seems to overwinter in various stages (larvae, pupae, adults), and has multiple generations per year in most areas. Probably not often overwintering north of about southern Utah and Colorado, but adults often appear as early as April even in the north. Additional information from Dimock, 1978 available online (1)
Often, in fact usually found flying alongside V. cardui, and similar in appearance and behavior to that species.

This species is closely related to, and sometimes hybridizes with the Red Admiral - V. atalanta, and the offspring look intermediate, resembling somewhat the Indian Red Admiral - Vanessa indica (an Asian species). This hybrid was named Vanessa atalanta variety edwardsi by F. Grinnell in 1918.

Internet References
The Vanessa Migration Project. Help contribute to scientific knowledge about these butterflies.
Works Cited
1.Notes on the life cycle and natural history of Vanessa annabella (Nymphalidae).
Thomas E. Dimock. 1978. Journal of the Lepidoperists' Society 32(2): 88-96.