Vanessa annabella
West Coast Lady

Family Description:
Alternate Common Name:
Western Painted Lady.
Note: This species is considered by some authors to be a subspecies of Vanessa carye. It and the other Painted Lady butterflies are sometimes grouped in their own genus or subgenus, Cynthia.
Caterpillar: The caterpillar is variable in its appearance. It ranges in color from light brown to black, and may be marked with yellow or orange patches. The body is covered with dark spines. It reaches a maximum, full-grown length of 1 inches.
Adult: This is a medium to large butterfly, with a wingspan of 1 to 2 inches. The outer edge of the forewing is slightly scalloped, and the tip is squared off. The upperside is orange to pinkish orange and marked with thick, wavy black lines on the forewing. The tip of the forewing is solid black, spotted with white, with a large patch of yellow to golden orange on the leading edge. The hindwing is marked with a curved row of 3 to 5 bluish purple spots, some of which are ringed with black. Underneath, the forewing is pinkish orange near the base and yellow to white towards the tip, marked heavily with wavy black lines. The underside of the hindwing is mottled and marbled with white, light brown, and dark brown; the bluish spots from above faintly show through.

This species ranges from southern British Columbia south to southern California and Mexico, extending east as far as North Dakota south to New Mexico and Texas. It occurs through most of Idaho.

It can be found in a variety of open areas, including fields, gardens, vacant lots, and other disturbed areas.


Caterpillar: Caterpillars feed on the leaves of many species of mallows (Family Malvaceae).
Adult: Butterflies drink flower nectar.

Caterpillars live in silk nests among the leaves of host plants. The number of generations of caterpillars each year varies regionally, with two in the Rockies, one at the highest elevations, and many occurring all year in parts of California and the southwest. Adults generally fly from early spring until fall through most of its range. Butterflies commonly overwinter in a physiological state called diapause, although caterpillars and pupae have been reported to overwinter, as well.

Males perch to wait for receptive females. Eggs are laid singly on the uppersides of leaves of host plants.

Idaho Status: Unprotected nongame species.
Global Rank:

G5; populations are widespread, abundant, and secure.

Ferris, C. D. and F. M. Brown. (eds.) 1981. Butterflies of the Rocky Mountain States. Univ. of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, USA, 442 pp.

Opler, P. A., H. Pavulaan, and R. E. Stanford. 1995. Butterflies of North America. Jamestown, North Dakota, USA: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Home Page. (Version 05Nov98).

Opler, P. A. and A. B.Wright. 1999. A Field Guide to the Western Butterflies.  Second Edition.  Peterson Field Guide Series. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, New York, USA, 540 pp.

Pyle, R. M. 1981. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, New York, USA, 924 pp.

Scott, J. A. 1986. The Butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, USA, 583 pp.

Stanford, R. E. and P. A. Opler. 1993. Atlas of Western U.S.A. Butterflies (Including Adjacent Parts of Canada and Mexico). Published by authors, Denver, Colorado, USA, 275 pp.