03 August 2013
An American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)
I was weeding the front garden when an orange butterfly, totally ignoring me, settled on the leaf of a nearby Pearly Everlasting. She dipped her abdomen underneath the leaf, then flew away. I knew she had oviposited, but I had to get a magnifying glass to identify the beautifully camouflaged egg...
... located in a paramedian position on the underside of the leaf. In due course a tiny first instar emerged. Even in their earliest stages, these caterpillars exhibit formidable body spikes -
- although this one seemed to be saying "OH HAI" as I used a fine-tiipped paint brush to transfer him/her to a fresh leaf. In addition to the spikes, the little caterpillar constructed little "nests" of leaf debris (photos in my 2010 post on the life cycle of this butterfly).
Here it is in full adult regalia:
Several days after that photo, the caterpillar suspended itself from a branch of the Pearly Everlasting and transformed itself into a chrysalis:
A second one is nearby, and some of the "nest" debris is visible above. When the butterfly eclosed, it hung for a while to pump fluid into the wing veins and let them harden to flight-capable rigidity. During that time they are helpless, relatively docile and willing to pose for photos.
I love the top image showing the diagnostic double eyespots on the undersurface of the hindwing (a close relative, the Painted Lady has four spots there), and the delicate coloration and venation pattern. From the topside the colors are move vivid.
More information on this butterfly is available at Mike Reese's Wisconsin Butterflies website. Those with more than a passing interest may want to peruse the University of Iowa's Red Admiral and Painted Lady Research Site.