American and Painted Ladies, GenusVanessa
Nymphalidae or Brushfoot Butterfly Family

American Lady
Vanessa virginiensis


Painted Lady
Vanessa cardui
American lady butterfly

Medium sized butterflies, up to about 2 and 1/2 inches wide. Orange on the upper wings, with black on the forewing tips. White spots decorate the black parts and black spots decorate the orange parts. Undersides of the wings dark brown with a splash of pink to red-orange, and a complex pattern of white and black markings. Eyespots on the hindwing are believed to startle and distract would-be predators. Particularly fond of nectar from flowers in the Sunflower Family.

Both species are native and common in eastern North America, and in Wildwood. Painted lady is a cosmopolitan species native to every continent but South America and the Antarctica. American lady isfound over most of North America and south into South America.

Adult above

To tell them apart look for the following characters:

  • American ladies have one row of white spots and a row of orangish spots on the upper surface of the forewing. Painted ladies have two rows of whtie spots.
  • American ladies usually have a single white spot in the first orange block below the black tip (as in the picture); painted ladies don't.
  • On the undersurface of the wings, American ladies have two large eyespots while painted ladies have 5 smaller eyespots..


Adult, side

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