West Coast Lady (Vanessa annabella [Field])
Wing span: 1 1/2 - 2 1/4 inches (3/8 - 5.7 cm).
Identification: Upperside is orange-brown with an orange bar at the leading edge of the forewing; hindwing with 3 or 4 blue submarginal spots. Underside with complex pattern; eyespots are obscured by other markings.
Life history: Males perch to watch for receptive females. Females lay eggs singly on upperside of host plant leaves; caterpillars eat leaves and live in a silken nest. Adults hibernate.
Flight: Many flights throughout the year in lowland California; two flights, summer and fall, in the Rocky Mountains; one flight in higher mountains.
Caterpillar hosts: Many plants in the mallow family (Malvaceae) including tree mallow (Lavatera), globe mallow (Sphaeralcea), bush mallow (Malvastrum), mallow (Malva), alkali mallow (Sida), checkerbloom (Sidalcea), and hollyhock (Althea).
Adult food: Flower nectar.
Habitat: Open places including weedy areas, gardens, roadsides, fields, foothills, chaparral, disturbed areas.
Range: Western North America from southern British Columbia south to Baja California Norte; south and east to Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, and Mexico. Strays to central Kansas, eastern North Dakota, and southern Ontario.
Conservation: Not required.
The Nature Conservancy Global Rank: G5 - Demonstrably secure globally, though it may be quite rare in parts of its range, especially at the periphery.
Management needs: Occasionally causes minor damage to hollyhock (Althaea) leaves.
Opler, P. A. and V. Malikul. 1992. A field guide to eastern butterflies. Peterson field guide #4. Houghton-Mifflin Co., Boston. 396 pages, 48 color plates. Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, Stanford, Calif. 583 pages, 64 color plates. Tilden, J. W. 1986. A field guide to western butterflies. Houghton-Mifflin Co., Boston, Mass. 370 pages, 23 color plates.
Author: Jane M. Struttmann
State and Regional References:
Opler, Paul A. 1999. Peterson Field Guide to Western Butterflies, revised edition. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Mass. Stanford, R.E. and P.A. Opler. 1993. Atlas of Western USA Butterflies. Privately published, Denver, Colo.