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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

West Coast Lady - Vanessa annabella

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S5

Agency Status

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General Description
[From Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001; Pyle 2002] Forewing 2.2-2.6 cm. Forewing apex squared off (clipped), orange and black above, with lightly scalloped margins. Uppersurface of forewing with orange (not white) postmedian bar, white spots in black tip, black bar completely crossing forewing cell; hindwing clear orange with little black, 3-4 submarginal blue spots sharply ringed in black. Undersurface of forewing light brownish with pink basal half, hindwing wildly marbled in dark brown, tan, cream, with a pale to white "arrowhead" in cell, submarginal eyespots obscured.

Many flights all year in lowland California; two flights in Rockies, midsummer and fall overwintering to spring; perhaps one flight in higher mountains (Scott 1986). Mainly March to November (but all year) in southern and coastal lowlands, May to September or October elsewhere (Gassberg 2001). June to September in Colorado (Ferris and Brown 1981); late May to early October at lower elevations, mid-June to mid-October at higher elevations in Colorado (Scott and Scott 1978); early March to mid-November in Oregon and Washington (Pyle 2002); mid-March to late October in Oregon (Warren 2005).

Diagnostic Characteristics
Best determined by a combination of forewing apex squared off (clipped), uppersurface of forewing with orange (not white) postmedian bar, black bar completely crossing forewing cell, uppersurface of hindwing with 3-4 submarginal blue spots sharply ringed in black.

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Range Comments
Resident in lowland California, southern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico; regular or irregular emigrant to most of western US to western Great Plains, north to southern British Columbia, southern Alberta, southern Saskatchewan (Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001); 1481 m to 4206 m elevation in Colorado (Brown 1957; Scott and Scott 1978), to 2835 m elevation in Oregon (Warren 2005), 456 m to 1219 m elevation in southeastern British Columbia (Threatful 1988). In Montana, reported from most western, northern, and southern counties (Kohler 1980; Stanford and Opler 1993); probably irregular throughout state. Rare to uncommon (Glassberg 2001).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 11

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Migratory to some degree; also disperse upslope (Guppy and Shepard 2001; Pyle 2002; James and Nunnallee 2011).

Valley openings, open woodland, montane meadows, marshes, weedy vacant lots, roadsides, gardens, prairie, above treeline in alpine terrain (Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001; Pyle 2002). In Glacier National Park, Montana reported above treeline in alpine terrain (Debinski 1993).

Food Habits
Larval food plants include Alcea, Althaea, Lavatera, Malacothamnus, Malavastrum, Malva (several species), Sida, Sidalcea, Sphaeralcea, Urtica (Dimock 1978; Scott 1986, 1992; Guppy and Shepard 2001). Adults feed on flower nectar (including Aesculus, Apocynum, Arnica, Calyptridium, Carduus, Chrysanthemum, Chrysothamnus, Cirsium, Dianthus, Echinacea, Machaeranthera, Medicago, Melilotus, Perovskia, Raphanus, Rudbeckia, Salvia, Scabiosa, Senecio, Solidago, Tagetes, Taraxacum, Trifolium, Verbena, Zinnia) and dung (James and Nunnallee 2011; Scott 2014).

Reproductive Characteristics
Females lay eggs singly on host plant leaves, usually on the upper surface. Egg hatch in about 4-8 days, L1 instar build silk nest in which to live and feed, L3-L5 instars form loose leaf shelters. Larvae solitary, feed in and out of nests day or night. Development from egg to pupae 15-20 days, adults emerge from pupae (eclose) in 5-11 days, about 28-36 days after oviposition; males survive 28 days in summer, several months in winter. Pupae usually suspended from leaf chamber on host plant stem or exposed on other plant twig or branch (Dimock 1978; James and Nunnallee 2011). Overwinters as larva, pupa, or adult (Scott 1979; Ferris and Brown 1981). Males territorial, perch on shrubs on hilltops or flatland openings, pursue passing objects in search of females (Scott 1975b, 1986; Dimock 1978; Guppy and Shepard 2001).

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Citation for data on this website:
West Coast Lady — Vanessa annabella.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from