Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Papilio cardui virginiensis Drury 1773. Type locality: “New York, Maryland, and Virginia” [defined as “Virginia” on the basis of its name by W. D. Field (1971)]
Papilio [Nymphalis gemmata] huntera Fabricius 1775. Type locality: “Americae balsamita”
Papilio [Nymphalis gemmata] iole Cramer 1776. Type locality: “l’Amerique septentrionale, à la Nouvelle York, à la Jamaïque”
Papilio cardui virginiensis (Drury) Boisduval & LeConte 1834
Vanessa huntera (Fabricius) Godart 1819
Vanessa hunteri (Fabricius) Hübner 1819 [misspelling)
Cynthia huntera (Fabricius) Humphreys & Westwood 1841
Pyrameis huntera (Fabricius) Doubleday 1849
Pyrameis iole (Cramer) Morris 1860
Papilio virginiensis (Drury) Morris 1860
Vanessa virginiensis (Drury) Kirby 1882
Pyrameis huntera fulva Dodge 1900. Type locality: Louisiana, Pike County, Missouri
Vanessa huntera fulva (Dodge) Dyar 1903
Vanessa iole (Cramer) Dyar 1903
Pyrameis huntera virginiensis (Druy) Seitz 1914
Vanessa virginiensis fulva (Dodge) Fox 1921
Cynthia iole (Cramer) Barnes & Benjamin 1926
Cynthia gnaphalii Fabricius 1938 [as a replacement name based on larval food plant]
Pyrameis huntera jole (Cramer) Berg 1941
Vanessa virginiensis iole (Cramer) d'Almeida 1941
Vanessa jole (Cramer) dos Passos 1964
Other names and combinations have been published for various color variations and aberration.
Some authors have used the spelling variant "jole" rather than "iole", which does not affect priorities.
Painted Lady is typically a little larger than the other two "Lady" species. The front (fore) wings have a shorter & wider wing tip and the back (hind) wings are more rounded than the other two species. On average, American Lady is the brightest orange of the three "Ladies". The black markings on the upper surface are narrower than painted lady and two eyespots on the hind wings are filled with blue (none on painted lady, all four on West Coast Lady). The under surface has prominent eyespots, unlike the other two lady species. Direct comparisons of the pattern reveal several consistent differences in the markings and coloration.
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.
On the upper surface, American Lady frequently shows a white spot on the front wing. This spot is extremely rare on Painted Lady, and absent on West Coast Lady. Also note the notch in the front wings, a widely projecting wing tip, more so than Painted Lady. See these photos below for a detailed comparison:
Larvae are variable: greenish yellow with black bands to black with cream bands, numerous red-based branched spines; two prominent white spots on each segment. (1)
Much of North America south to Columbia and Venzuela. Also found, mostly at high elevations, on several islands in the Greater Antilles. Overwintering in the south and moving northward varying distances (usually well into Canada) during the spring and summer where it breeds and produces summer generations. Also sometimes encountered in western Europe, where it is likely a stray, and apparently established in the Canaries and Hawaii.
Larvae feed on Cudweeds, Everlastings and Pussytoes - Gnaphalium, Anaphalis, Antennaria (all Asteraceae).
1.leaf shelters on Pussytoes (Antennaria) 2.leaf shelters on Pussytoes 3.larva 4.chrysalis 5.adult
Often found with Vanessa cardui, requiring practice and careful observation to distinguish.
One of the few "numbered" butterflies, Hodges #4434
Replaced in South America by extremely similar V. braziliensis and V. altissima, the later of which is perhaps a subspecies of V. virginiensis. South American V. myrinna is also very similar and sometimes confused with the others, even though the color pattern is distinctly different.