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Painted Lady with white spot - Vanessa cardui

Painted Lady with white spot - Vanessa cardui
Kokomo, Howard County, Indiana, USA
September 2, 2008
I took photos of 2 different individuals (these 2 photos are the same individual), the same day, with a white spot on the wing. By all other markings, this should be a Painted Lady, but the white spot indicates American Lady. Do these two species ever interbreed? Is there a logical explanation for the white spot on a Painted Lady?

Images of this individual: tag all
Painted Lady with white spot - Vanessa cardui Painted Lady with white spot - Vanessa cardui

Not quite, but I think it's definitely just a tad "off".
On this one all the white spots are where they should be. The white spot in the second large space up from the lower margin of the front wing (it's orange/pink there, not dark) is the odd-ball one. On the linked photo, that spot isn't there. However, the white spot in the dark space one up from there is certainly better developed than average. This other spot is sometimes present on the underside, though mostly not showing on the upper side the way it does on this individual. It isn't the spot that is supposed to be diagnostic for V. virginiensis (but can sometimes be missing there). I haven't noticed any other Painted Ladies with the extra spot on BugGuide entries, but there may be more. I don't use these spots for identification, so often don't notice.

A couple other things that vary a lot are how many of the dark round spots on the upper side of the hind wing have blue centers (or not), and how well-developed the dark markings on the hind wing are. These details can make some individuals more easily confused with V. carye [= annabella], and can make them look nearly identical to the Australian Painted Lady - V. kershawi (which of course we don't have here).

Moved from ID Request.

This spot is seen at least occasionally in most Vanessa species,
but in V. cardui it is extremely rare. And, I think it is noteworthy enough that it is good to show it as the exception to the rule here. It is always fun and valuable to see unusual specimens as well as "normal" ones. I do agree that (in this case) there is no reason to point out the spot, since it is so obvious anyway, and it affects the aesthetics of this frankly beautiful butterfly. However, there are times where it is good to point out a feature with a mark, when that is a feature difficult to see and difficult to point out in words. Something like wing venation is often this way.

I wonder
how many others we might have. Does this one count?

For confirming this as an atypical variation of Vanessa cardui. Everything I've read indicates that the white spot is a distinguishing feature of Vanessa virginiensis. Now I know that not all Ladies with a white spot are American Ladies. Thanks, David.

Please note the instructions requesting "Please do not include any other text or markup in the image." It is better to discuss the spot in the remarks (as you did) rather than marking up the images. Imagine if everyone submitted images with circles, arrows, or text on them.

circles removed

Perhaps there are exceptions
Perhaps there are exceptions to the rule as shown in the photo link below:

This image was summited as an aid to identification only; and should also answer your question in regards to ID. I think the white spot on your photos are just a slight variant of the painted lady species.

Occasionally an image is submitted for use on an info page, but we don't want all images to have arrows and text saying "Look a dot!", just the one for the guide page.

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