One of the most common butterflies my wife and I are seeing in our backyard right now is the American lady (Vanessa virginianus).
The American lady is a medium sized butterfly with a wingspan that measures from 1.75 – 2.4 inches wide.
The American lady is a beautiful butterfly. From above the butterfly is reddish orange in color. Its forewings are bordered black. The tips of the forewings are also adorned with white spots.
The American lady is gorgeous regardless of whether you see it from above or below. However, I personally find it most attractive when it holds its wings above its body while feeding. When you look at the ventral side of the butterfly in this position the first thing that catches your eye are two large eyespots. The underside of the wings also features a complex pattern of creamy white lines that will immediately remind you of a spider web. What a combination!
The only butterfly that it can be confused with is the painted lady. Whereas there are a couple of subtle differences in the appearances of the painted lady and the American lady, the easiest way to separate the two is by counting the number of eyespots displayed on the trailing edge of the ventral side of the wings. The painted lady is decorated with four small eyespots whereas the American lady has but two large eyespots.
Depending on where you live in Georgia, you may see American ladies flying from late January into November. Folks residing in the southern half of the state see them earlier and later in the year than those living in North Georgia.
American ladies prefer to fly in open areas such as roadside, fields and meadows. Fortunately for us they are also commonly found in our backyards.
American ladies nectar at any a number of ornamental and native plants. However, in our backyard, they are primarily nectaring at coneflowers and Miss Huff lantana.
When you approach an American lady don’t be surprised if it flies away much sooner than an eastern tiger swallowtail. It is a bit skittish. However, if you stand motionless, often the American lady will soon return and land close by.
Among the host plants used by the American lady are cudweed, some asters, and pussy-toes.