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Photo#71459
Vanessa virginiensis and cardui--dorsal view - Vanessa

Vanessa virginiensis and cardui--dorsal view - Vanessa
Durham County, North Carolina, USA
Composite showing, on the left, American Painted Lady, Vanessa virginensis, and on the right, Painted Lady (Cosmopolitan), Vanessa cardui. The two are easy to tell apart from below, but a bit more difficult from above. Here are is a list of what I think are significant marks:
a-V. virginiensis has a larger eyespot here. In V. cardui all the eyespots are about the same size.
b-V. virginiensis has no bar connecting the two large spots in the median area. V. cardui has a heavy connecting bar. This is mentioned as the key mark by Glassberg (1).
c-This bar is usually longer in V. virginiensis, almost reaching the leading edge of the wing.
d-V. virginiensis sometimes has a white spot in the orange area here, while V. cardui does not. This character is variable, however. Both of my good photos of V. virginiensis from above lack the white spot. (It does not rest with wings open very often, so I have few dorsal photos.) Glassberg (1) mentions this as a good character, but it is barely visible in the photo he uses.
e-The shape of the forewing is, I believe, a consistent character for separation. V. virginiensis has a prominent notch in the forewing, so it is slightly falcate. The forewing of V. cardui is more rounded. Though not mentioned in the field guides, this character is consistent in the images I have examined on the Internet and in print references.

A composite from these two images, both from Durham County, North Carolina, in September:

Really nice, Patrick
We need more of this! I've been working on IDing these two and West Coast Ladies and find onscreen images much easier to compare than the typically smaller, less vivid printed ones. The half-insect, side-by-side presentation with callouts is simply wonderful.

I only wish this page were more readily visible. Perhaps a comment on the Vanessa Info page would help a bit? (Chuck Entz called your page to my attention in reference to another post, otherwise I'd have missed it.)

Useful comparison
For item d-, Sue Taylor's image shows this spot clearly; occurs in all the northern specimens I have seen

 
We've got some from FL that show it, too
e.g below, so I don't think it's regional.


 
Wear, perhaps?
I wonder if the white spot could be a bit of wearing of organge scales? The specimen I used above was really fresh. On full-size photos, there is just a little bit of wear at that spot, revealing a hint of white.
Just a hypothesis! I'll have to work on photographing these--they don't often open their wings.

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