New Jersey Butterflies

American Lady

Vanessa virginiensis

Identification: Small—2.0" (much smaller than the similarly orange Monarch). Above: FW and HW orange and black with a few white spots in black FW apex. FW usually has a small white spot in the outermost orange square nearly halfway along outer margin. Black marks on inner FW near body do not form a connected arc (as in Painted Lady). Below: HW dark olive with intricate pale cobweb pattern, a conspicuous pale band across the midwing, and 2 large, blue-centered eyespots near margin. Painted Lady has 4 smaller eyespots, but it's often easier to see the pale band on American, which is lacking in Painted. FW with pinkish-orange area just above edge of FW.

NJ Status and Distribution: Resident. Usually fairly common and widespread. Migratory. Abundance varies from year to year depending on degree to which immigrants supplement residents.

NJ Range Map-American Lady

Habitat: Open, sunny, upland fields and wet meadows. Easily attracted to gardens with flowers such as Butterfly Bush, Purple Coneflower, asters, and milkweeds. One of our most familiar garden species.

Flight Period: Early April into November. Extreme dates: North Jersey 4/3—11/21; South Jersey 1/19—12/25.

Larval Food Plants: Composites such as Sweet Everlasting (Gnaphalium obtusifolium), Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea), and pussytoes (Antennaria).

Overwintering Stage: Adult, but the number of individuals that overwinter in NJ is probably small.

Best Locations: Everywhere.

Comments: Occasionally a very faded individual is seen in April that probably spent the winter in some protected crevice or woodpile.



American Lady

Washington, Warren Co., NJ, 7/16/05.


American Lady

Kittatinny Valley SP, Sussex Co., NJ, 6/27/09, on Common Milkweed.


American Lady Larva

Late instar of American Lady wrapped in leaf of Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea).


Pearly Everlasting

Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea), one of a few host plants for American Lady.