A Guide to the Insects of the Coal Oil Point Reserve

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 Insects of Coal Oil Point > Guide > Lepidoptera > Nymphalidae - Brush-footed butterflies

Nymphalidae - Brush-footed butterflies


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Limenitis lorquini | Vanessa atalanta | Vanessa cardui | Vanessa viginiensis|Vanessa annabella|Junonia coenia|Danaus plexippus|Danaus gilippus|Phyciodes mylitta

Brush-footed Butterfly Photos
(click to enlarge)

Limenitis lorquini - Lorquin's Admiral



Size: wingspread 2-2.5 in.

Recognition: Large; upperside is black with orange tips (notpatch like the similar California Sister) and broken white bandextending down wings; underside is red-brown with white band andmarkings.

Flight period: They are active from April to October.

Hostplants: Hostplants include Salicaceae trees such as Populus species (quaking aspen and cottonwoods), and Willows (Salix species); also some Rosaceae, like wild cherry (Prunusspecies) and some orchard trees. Adults like such flowers as Californiabuckeye, yerba santa, privet, and may even be seen on animal feces.

Habitat: Lorquin's Admirals fly in mountain meadows and moisthabitats where hostplants are found. Forest groves/edges, mountainvalleys, orchards and streamsides are also frequented.

Distribution: Much of western North America, south into Baja California.

Other: The Lorquin's Admiral takes its name from an early French butterfly collector in California, Pierre Lorquin.

Vanessa atalanta - Red Admiral



Size:wingspread 1.8-2.5 in.

Recognition: Unique; bright orange/ red band cuts diagonallythrough middle of FW; white spots above band on otherwise darkbackground; HW dark with thick orange edge (with blue spots at innercorners).

Flight period: Adults can be found all year in southern California, and from March to November in other areas.

Hostplants: Larvae feed mostly on nettle, false nettle, and wood nettle (all Urticaceae).

Habitat: Red Admirals can grace the suburban yard, and are foundin a variety of other habitats including open fields, scrubby areas,and foothills.

Distribution: Common and widespread throughout most of NorthAmerica, but is only a seasonal colonist of areas where it cannotsurvive winters. Quite common in southern California and is recorded onSanta Cruz Island.

Other: In suburban yards, males will sometimes 'claim' territories, returning to the same area repeatedly for weeks.

Vanessa cardui - Painted Lady



Size:wingspread 1.8-2.5 in.

Recognition: Black and orange with red spot in mid-leading edgeof FW, also has more extensive black coloring near body than otherladies; HW has black spot row along bottom edge; eyespots of undersideof HW small.

Flight period: Flies on the deserts all year, and from spring until fall in coastal and mountain areas.

Hostplants: Larvae may feed on an unusual variety of plants, from several families, including mallows (Malva), lupines (Lupinus), thistles (Cirsium), and nettles (Urtica).

Habitat: Many and most habitats, from urban parks, lots, fields and grassland, into montane and desert habitats.

Distribution: Throughout North America (excluding extremenorthern areas) and into Central America. There is an active populationon Santa Cruz Island.

Other: Following years with good winter rains in the deserts, they will sometimes migrate north by the millions in the spring.

Vanessa virginiensis - American Lady



Size: wingspread 1.75-2.25 in.

Recognition: FWs are orange and black with white marking onmid-leading edges and small white dot on orange coloring in FW; HW hassemi-connected row of dark spots along bottom edge; underside HW haslarge eyespots on brownish green coloring.

Flight period: Adults fly all year in southern California and April through November elsewhere in their range.

Hostplants: Everlastings and pussytoes (both Asteraceae) are the most common larval foodplants.

Habitat: Variety of habitats which include foothills, open andscrubby areas, lowlands, meadows, fields, roadsides, and suburbansettings.

Distribution: Found throughout the U.S., Mexico and southeastern Canada.

Vanessa annabella - West Coast Lady



Size:wingspread 1.5-1.8 in.

Recognition: Tip of FW is flat (squared) rather than curved (rounded) like that on V. cardui;orange marking in mid-leading FW, not white like other Painted andAmerican Ladies; row of spots on bottom HW have distinct blue center.

Flight period: Flies all year, but is common from February to November.

Hostplants: Larvae feed on plants in the mallow family (Malvaceae), including Malva, Sphaeralcea, and Sidalcea.

Habitat: Various habitats including fields, gardens, lots, urban environments, and hillsides.

Distribution: Along the West coast, from British Columbia intoMexico, but rare in deserts, it prefers lowlands. There is a permanentpopulation on Santa Cruz Island.

Junonia coenia - Common Buckeye



Size:wingspread 1.5-2.25 in.

Recognition: At first glance it could appear a little boring,but one good look at this Buckeye reveals it to be anything but common;stunning purple and pink eyepots stand out on margins of FW and HW; twosmall orange/red bands are clearly marked on leading FW edges.

Flight period: All year in southern California, and March to November in more northern locales.

Hostplants: Buckeye larvae use monkeyflower (Mimulus species), snapdragon (Antirrhinum species), and plantains (Plantago species), all Scrophulariaceae.

Habitat: Common in a variety of natural and semiurban habitats,including grasslands, chaparral, old fields and roadsides; very commonalong our sunny, foothill trails.

Distribution: The Common Buckeye ranges over most of the southern U.S. and Mexico.

Other: As with many other butterflies, including the Monarch,the Common Buckeye expands its range northward in warmer months,retreating to the south in the fall. In the field, Buckeyes sunthemselves with their wings open, giving an observer a perfect view oftheir unique coloring.

Danaus plexippus - Monarch



Size: wingspread 3-4.5 in.

Recognition: Distinctive and unique; bright orange cellsoutlined with black vein pattern; females slightly duller orange/brownwith bolder black veins.

Flight period: Monarchs may be seen at any time of year in ourarea; inland populations are depleted in late fall and winter bycoastward migration.

Hostplants: Refered to as the "milkweed butterflies." Larvae ofall Monarch and the closely related Queen butterflies feed exclusivelyon milkweed (Asclepias and relatives), which makes them poisonous to predators.

Habitat: They are found in a huge range of settings, includingurban areas, grassland, oak woodland, though rarely seen in deserts;overwintering sites are mostly located in coastal eucalyptus groves.

Distribution: Found throughout most of North America, including Mexico and southern Canada.

Other: Santa Barbara is lucky enough to be a major overwinteringsite for Monarchs. Starting in late fall, when temperatures begin todrop, the butterflies descend in huge numbers upon Santa Barbara, inthe tens of thousands at places such as Goleta's Ellwood Grove.

Danaus gilippus - Queen



Size: wingspread 2.75-3.5 in.

Recognition: Upperside orange/brown with black and whitespeckled border, and the FWs have scattered white spots; underside ofHW with darkened veins

Flight period: Adults active from April to November; more likely to be seen here in later part of season.

Hostplants: Like the Monarch, the larvae of the Queen feed only on milkweeds (Asclepias and relatives)

Habitat: Open areas, foothills, and arid desert settings are the most frequent habitats of the Queen.

Distribution: The Queen is a subtropical species, occurring onlyin the southernmost U.S. In southern California, they are relativelycommon in foothill and arid regions of San Diego, Imperial andRiverside counties; in the fall, occasional strays may be seen alongthe coast from Santa Barbara south to San Diego.

Other: Queens and Monarchs are known as the "milkweedbutterflies" and both larvae and adults carry toxins from these plantsin their bodies, making them distasteful to predators. The Viceroy is awell-known Monarch mimic, profiting from predators learning to avoidits coloration. However, it is less well-known that populations of theViceroy in the southwestern U.S. mimic the Queen instead.

Phyciodes mylitta - Crescent Mylitta



Size: wingspread 1-1.5 in.

Recognition: Characteristic pointed nose (snout), and black andwhite striped antennae with orange clubs; upperside is orange withblack lines and spots, creating a band pattern; females have a lighteryellow- orange band through mid-wing; underside FW is orange and HW isbrownish orange with occasional white markings.

Flight period: March to September.

Hostplants: Thistles, such as Cirsium, Cardus,and Silybium species (Asteraceae) are used as hostplants for larvae of this Crescent.

Habitat: Wet and moist habitats in fields and open areas of mountains and foothills. Adults nectar frequently.

Distribution: Western portion of continental U.S.


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