An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter of January 28, 2008
issued from Yerba Buena Clinic just outside
Pueblo Nuevo Solistahuacan, Chiapas, MÉXICO
about 1740 meters in elevation, ± LAT. 17° 11' 27"N, LONG. -92° 53' 35"W

AMERICAN PAINTED LADY

American Painted Lady, VANESSA VIRGINIENSIS

The other day a particularly fast-moving, jerky-flying butterfly flitted out of a sunny afternoon's hot air and landed in a spot where I sometimes go pee. Butterflies just love that spot and I always feel a certain pleasure when I pee there knowing that maybe some of the salts from my body will just thrill a needful butterfly. This butterfly looked very familiar. That's its picture above so you can see if you recognize it, too.

Mike at the Mariposas Mexicanas website confirmed my suspicion: It was nothing other than the American Painted Lady, VANESSA VIRGINIENSIS, a species I grew up with in Kentucky, was a hermit with in Mississippi, and which you may have encountered anyplace from Central Canada to Cuba and Guatemala.

Actually, there's another very common, wide-ranging butterfly of the same genus, the Painted Lady, so similar that you probably need to compare wing illustrations in a butterfly field guide to tell them apart.

The Yerba Buena area is a good place for both of these butterflies because members of the genus Vanessa are known as Thistle Butterflies, and thistles are common here. American Painted Lady caterpillars specialize in feeding on thistle-related plants I refer to as cudweeds, which are abundant here, and which I talk about next.