"I've watched you now a full half-hour;Early this summer our flowers were almost overrun by these lovely ladies, quite friendly, fluttering close to anything with color, even seersucker shirts. These are related to but slightly different from "Painted Lady" butterflies, (Vanessa cardui). The Painted Lady has four rounded "eyespots" on the under hindwing while the American has only two and they are slightly larger. There is also a slight variation to the red and black pattern on the underside of the forewing, most obvious is the small rectangular red patch with a central white dot that is typical of the American Lady. We have both here in coastal Virginia, but this year the American Lady was more prominent.
Self-poised upon that yellow flower
And, little Butterfly! Indeed
I know not if you sleep or feed.
How motionless! - not frozen seas
More motionless! and then
What joy awaits you, when the breeze
Hath found you out among the trees,
And calls you forth again!"
~ William Wordsworth, "To a Butterfly"
Clockwise from top left: Coneflower "Hot Summer", Lantana "Chapel Hill Gold", Lantana "Miss Huff",
Butterfly bush (Buddleia), and Coneflower "Fragrant Angel".
The information site lists the favorite nectar plants including goldenrod, marigold and milkweed. Yes, they did love the milkweed flowers, but as you can see they also adored the coneflowers, lantana, butterfly bush and the coreopsis (first picture). In fact, they feasted on most of the flowers in the beds this year. I didn't see any caterpillars on the sunflowers this year and I really didn't have any of their other favorite caterpillar host plants. It is just as well, since I am still overrun with black swallowtail and monarchs.
The American Lady must be in between broods right now as their numbers are down a bit. Never fear though, these are very prolific and their numbers make them, along with the Painted Lady, the most widely spread butterfly in North America.
By the way, with all our rain the last two days, the butterflies have had to find shelter. We had a break in the weather for a few hours and they exploded... Monarch, Tiger Swallowtail, Black Swallowtail, Clouded Sulfur and Pearly Crescent were all gathering nectar at the same time. I had trouble deciding which one to photograph!
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