Before beginning, you might be interested in checking out Michelle’s Rambling Woods. Michelle hosts Nature Notes each Tuesday. This week she has a special post about insect songs.
I love seeing how particular plants go in and out of fashion for wildlife. A couple of weeks ago everyone was partying at the mistflower. Today? The mistflowers are ghost towns. All dried up. Nothing to see but dust devils and a passing tumble-weed.
This week the blue sage is where it’s at. Spotted in the crowd were some of those disreputable Painted Ladies you sometimes hear about.
Trigger Warning: Orange Butterflies Ahead
Though the problem is usually left unspoken, amateur butterfly lovers are frequently afflicted by something known in the business as Orange Butterfly Anxiety Syndrome (OBAS). Locals be advised, the CDC has isolated Texas as a prime epicentre for this problem since hundreds of resident butterfly species happen to be coloured orange.
Symptoms include a clenched jaw, shortness of breath, generalized anxiety and a compulsive need to search through butterfly identification guides. Should symptoms persist or get worse be aware that margaritas can sometimes dull the pain.
Luckily, I’ve been vaccinated against this particular orange butterfly. Turn back now if necessary but if you are feeling brave please allow me to be your guide. Together we can face any monster — no matter how orange she may appear.
(Full disclosure — I am not a professional.)
The opening photo shows a Painted Lady. They are extremely common butterflies across the continent and are often used in classrooms to demonstrate the process of metamorphosis. If you gently touch her front legs with an extended finger, she will almost always hop up. Free living jewellery. People who wear lab coats will tell you it is a reflex action but I prefer to imagine they are simply being sociable.
Painted Lady or American Painted Lady?
The Painted Lady is easily confused with the American Painted Butterfly but if the wings are open there is a quick and dirty field mark to look for:
The American Painted Lady has an extra white spot on the open wing …
See how the Painted Lady below is missing that white spot …
If the wings are closed look at the big circles on the bottom wing. This is not as reliable as the white spot mark but it can be helpful.
- Several peacock circles? Painted Lady
- Only a couple? American Painted Lady
- Are the spots clearly blue? West Coast Painted Lady
What?!? Wait-a-minute, just how many Painted Ladies are out there? Breathe. Relax. As far as I know, there are only three here in Texas though they do have a cousin, Vanessa kershawi, living in Australia.
Note: I have oversimplified as these butterflies have winter and summer forms. The summer forms are much more brightly coloured. So much so that the regular Painted Lady’s spots might appear as blue as the West Coast Lady’s. But let us cut our losses. The American Painted Lady still has that extra white spot and fewer peacock circles.
Below: Four large peacock spots. Painted Lady or West Coast Lady? –shrug– and –who cares really–
Below: American Painted Lady showing two large peacock circles.
Fine print: I could be wrong about anything or everything. Corrections are welcome.