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American Lady - Vanessa virginiensis

American Lady - Vanessa virginiensis
Hebron Road just west of Old Oxford Highway, Durham County, North Carolina, USA
September 3, 2003
Taking nectar on Tall Coneflower, Rudbeckia lacinata. I had stopped to photograph the flowers and the butterfly showed up. It was a hot, hazy day, with perfect light for photography. One of my better photos taken with my Coolpix 4500 digicam. Technically, the eyespot-like marks on the wing are called ocelli, not to be confused with simple eyes.

This patch of roadside wildflowers was on an area of basic soil associated with a serpentine ridge, and was recently lost to excavation for utility work and road widening.

Note on ID. See discussion under this composite image:

The photo on this page is indeed of an American Lady, Vanessa virginiensis, and not the Painted Lady (Cosmopolitan), Vanessa cardui.

Compare recently-posted images of another individual, coincidentally also from 2003, but taken several months earlier and about 20 miles away:

Images of this individual: tag all
American Lady - Vanessa virginiensis American Lady - Vanessa virginiensis

V. virginiensis
It's obviously V. virginiensis. I don't know why people confuse those two species. They're quite distinctive.

thanks--source of confusion
The lack of that white spot, perhaps due to wear, is what confused people here. That one mark is highlighted in several field guides, but the mark is occasionally absent.
One thing nice about this discussion is it forced me to look at some other characters. The shape of the forewing, in particular, is unambiguous, and not subject to wear. (It is not mentioned in any of the guides I have.) I had not noticed that before engaging in this discussion back then.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
this is a Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) for all of the reasons listed by Ken Slade. since this is a dorsal view, most notable is the lack of a "white dot" in the orange area midway on the distal portion of both of the forewings, and the eyespots of the hindwing are separated, where on Am. Lady they appear to be connected with a smudged appearance.

See discussion

This individual is indeed an American Lady, Vanessa virginiensis. It does show the squared-off wing-tip and the smudged-together eyespots on the hindwing in the dorsal view, as you mention. The little white spot is missing, which is an uncommon variant, or wear pattern, perhaps. Another good image to compare is this one of V. virginiensis, with the white spot, but otherwise the dorsal view is identical to my specimen above:

Compare, also, other images we have here in the guide, where the white spot in the orange area is faint, or missing:

Painted Lady
Excellent photo! I believe this butterfly is actually a Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui). It is often confused with the American Lady which has a more squared off forewing tip, the white spot in the red-orange area of the forewing, and the 2 large (rather than 4 medium) eyespots on the ventral hindwing.

American Lady
Confirmed by photo and description in Butterflies through Binoculars The West.

American Lady
I have established a butterfly garden and have both American and Painted Lady butterflies. I have seen and photographed hundreds of photos of each. I have photographed several American Ladys that have the white spot missing in a Dorsal photo but was there on the Ventral photo. Strange but true. I have even pbotograph what I believe to be an Albino American Lady. It hardly had any color. Anyway, I believe this is a an American Lady with the missing commonly seen white spot on the forewing.

Beautiful photo.

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