AMERICAN PAINTED LADY
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. I took its picture and you can see at
the right 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.