West Coast Lady (Vanessa annabella) (Field, 1971)

Diagnosis: This is our smallest species of Vanessa (wingspan: 36 to 51 mm) and has the darkest orange-brown colour above. The spot on the front edge of the forewings is orange, while this spot is usually white in the Painted Lady (V. cardui). All four submarginal spots on the hindwing upperside are black with blue centres. The submarginal eyespots on the hindwing underside are indistinct.

Range: This is mainly a butterfly of the west coast, found sparingly inland to the Rocky Mountains and southward to Guatemala. In Canada, it is resident only in southern British Columbia and southern Alberta and strays into Saskatchewan as far east as Indian Head.

Specimen collection data

Similar Species: Painted Lady (V. cardui) and American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis). [compare images]

Early Stages: The highly variable larvae can be light brown to black with yellow spots and spines. In British Columbia they are reported on mallow (Malva spp.), lupine (Lupinus spp.), and stinging nettles (Urtica spp.), as well as garden hollyhock.

Abundance: Numbers can vary dramatically from year to year, but it is always very rare east of the Rocky Mountains.

Flight Season: In British Columbia and Alberta Vanessa annabella flies from June until mid-October. The Saskatchewan records were in June and August.

Habits: Like the Painted Lady (V. cardui), this is a species of open disturbed areas such as vacant lots, meadows, and cultivated fields.

Remarks: The West Coast Lady was once considered to be the North American representative of Vanessa carye Hübner that occurs in South America; it was recognized as a distinct species in 1971 on the basis of details of the male genitalia.

© 2002. This material is reproduced with permission from The Butterflies of Canada by Ross A. Layberry, Peter W. Hall, and J. Donald Lafontaine. University of Toronto Press; 1998. Specimen photos courtesy of John T. Fowler.