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 west coast lady is the smallest of the three species. The forewings are more angular in appearance because of the squared wing tip. Marking wise, the dark stripes on the upper surface are narrow, like American lady. The second (subapical) bar on both surfaces of the forewing is orange in west coast lady, but white on painted lady. On the hindwings, there is more orange than painted lady and all four eyespots are equal in size and clearly filled in with blue.
Comparison of the three painted lady species in America:
Left: painted lady, Vanessa cardui.
Center: west coast lady, Vanessa annabella.
Right: American lady, Vanessa virginensis.
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).
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.
The Vanessa Migration Project
. Help contribute to scientific knowledge about these butterflies.