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American Painted Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

American Painted Lady butterfly
Habitat: Pine flatwoods and open, disturbed sites such as utility easements, old fields, meadows, pastures, and fallow agricultural land Garden Abundance: Occasional Wingspan: 1.75 to 2.25 in Larval Host Plants: Sweet everlasting (Gnaphalium obtusifolium) and other cudweeds (Gnaphalium spp.), pearly everlasting (Anaphalis spp.) and pussytoes (Antennaria spp.). Favorite Adult Nectar Sources: Frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora), purpletop verbena (Verbena bonariensis), and blanket flower (Gaillardia pulchella)

Despite its attractiveness, the American painted lady is often overlooked and underappreciated because it is so common. The intricately detailed, pale agate-like design on the undersurface of the hindwings is most obvious when the butterfly is at rest and is markedly different from the rich orange and black coloration of the wings above.

Typical of most brush-footed butterflies, the American painted lady has a relatively nervous disposition and is difficult to approach. When disturbed, it often takes off in a rapid, chaotic flight. American painted ladies often fly near the ground. Most easily observed in the early morning or on cool days, these ladies regularly bask for long periods in the warm sunshine. The American painted lady is fond of open, sunny locations where weeds and flowers abound. It is an occasional garden visitor.

The larva of the American painted lady constructs a solitary nest on its host plant by weaving together pieces of leaves and flowers with silk that it produces. Inside its makeshift shelter, the caterpillar can rest safely and feed out of the sight of hungry predators.

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