Painted lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui

Painted Lady. Photo by James Taulman.

These butterflies range widely, favoring old fields and disturbed areas, as well as sand dunes. They occur worldwide, only being absent from Australia and Antarctica. They undergo migrations not necessarily limited by season. They fly at high speeds and may cover 100 miles per day during a migration. Males perch or fly in search of receptive females. Mating takes place year round,with populations migrating to warmer regions during colder weather. Females lay single eggs on leaves of host plants. Caterpillars eat the leaves of host plants and spin silk nests in which they take refuge. Host plants may include thistles, legumes and more than 100 other species. Adults feed on nectar from flowering plants, particularly large composites. Populations are secure and not under threat.



American lady, Vanessa virginiensis

American Lady. Photo by James Taulman.

These butterflies prefer open habitat such as forest edges, parks, meadows, vacant lots and sand dunes in the southern United States. Males perch and wait for receptive females to approach. Females lay single eggs and solitary caterpillars feed on sunflower and other herbaceous plants from within a leaf nest that they construct and bind together with silk fibers. Adults emerge in summer and eat flower nectar from a variety of plants. Adults then hibernate over winter or migrate to warmer southern regions of the U.S. or Mexico.






Checkered white butterfly, Pontia protodice

Checkered White. Photo by James Taulman.

Males fly in search of receptive females, who after mating lay single eggs on leaves of host flowering plants. Caterpillars feed on flowers, buds, and fruits, also eating leaves of plants such as mustard, cabbage, and caper. Where they are abundant, caterpillars can produce minor damage to crops of mustard, broccoli, cabbage, and other host crops. Caterpillars pupate over winter. Adults emerge in spring and feed on flower nectar of similar species to those favored by caterpillars. These butterflies are common in the southern U.S. but may also be found in northern states and into Canada. They may produce several broods per year.



Clouded sulfur, Colias philodice

Clouded Sulfur. Photo by James Taulman.

Favored habitats include wildflower fields and other open areas and meadows from Alaska throughout most of the United States, excluding California and some southern states. Adult females lay single eggs and caterpillars feed on leaves of host pea, alfalfa, and clover plants. Caterpillars overwinter as pupae and emerge in spring as adults, or the metamorphosis from caterpillar to adult may take only 10 days in a generation that does not go dormant over winter. Adults feed on flower nectar. Populations are common and secure.



Comma butterfly, Polygonia comma

Comma butterfly. Photo by James Taulman.

Males perch on tree trunks or leaves, waiting for receptive females to approach. Commas may be found in deciduous forests near water across the eastern U.S. to the Rocky Mountains. Adults feed on tree sap and rotting fruits. Adults that have survived over the winter lay eggs in spring. Solitary caterpillars feed on leaves of elms and nettles at night, resting under cover during the day. They pupate and emerge as adults during summer and fall that will then overwinter to resume the cycle the next spring.



Mourning cloak butterfly, Nymphalis antiopa

Mourning Cloak. Photo by James Taulman.

These butterflies migrate and their habitats are varied, including woodlands, parks, riparian areas, and residential suburbs across North America and into Mexico. Adults may live 10-11 months and are the longest living butterfly in America, overwintering as adults to mate in the spring. Adults feed on hardwood tree sap, particularly oaks. They normally orient themselves head down on the tree trunk and proceed downward as they feed. They may also feed on flower nectar. Caterpillars live in communal webs and feed in groups on willows, elms, cottonwood, hackberry, and leaves of other hardwoods, sometimes defoliating host trees. Caterpillars spin cocoons and pupate in spring and adults emerge in mid summer.



Spangled Fritillary, Speyeria cybele

Spangled Fritillary. Photo by James Taulman.

This butterfly inhabits wildflower patches in sunny uplands across the United States, including deciduous and coniferous forest openings, moist fields and meadows. Females lay single eggs in late summer and caterpillars overwinter in the shelter of leaf litter without feeding. In spring caterpillars begin feeding on the leaves and flowers of various violet species at night. During the day they hide under leaves to avoid predation. Caterpillars overwinter as pupae. Adults are active throughout the early summer through fall feeding on nectar of various flowering plants.



Weidemeyer’s admiral, Limenitis weidemeyerii

Weidmeyer’s Admiral. Photo by James Taulman.

These butterflies are found in the Rocky mountains and Great Plains in deciduous forests and riparian areas in coniferous forests, as well as residential areas. Males wait on tree perches for females to approach. They are territorial and may chase other butterflies away from their perch. Caterpillars eat leaves of tree and shrubs, such as aspen, cottonwood, willows, and Amelanchier species. Caterpillars may overwinter in leaf shelters they construct in a third stage of development, called diapauses. They then pupate in a cocoon in spring and emerge as adults in summer. Adults feed on flower nectar, tree sap, and dead organic matter.