American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) life history
American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) Life History


First instar

Second instar

Third instar

Fourth instar

Fifth instar

Typical, colorful, chrysalis

Grey chrysalis

Fresh adult American Lady, ventral view

Fresh adult American Lady, dorsal view

Down by the Rio Grande river in Salineņo, it is not too difficult to find American Ladies ovipositing on Cudweed (Pseudognaphalium species) in late spring. It is, however, quite a challenge to locate the eggs on this plant. The leaves and especially stems are covered with a deep mat of hairs, and the female Ladies place their eggs deep in the mat. For this study, rather than try to locate eggs in the field, I transplanted the Cudweeds I saw a female use. I found only 2 eggs on the plants I collected, but I ended up with 4 caterpillars! The pictured egg was photographed three days after it was deposited: by this time, the plant's growth made it more visible.

In the first four instars, American Lady caterpillars make nests of leaves and abundant silk, and the larvae tend to curl up when disturbed by the opening of the nest. This makes photographing them a bit of a challenge.

Most of the American Ladies I have raised formed green and yellow chrysalises, sometimes with a golden hue. On this occasion, one formed a more cryptic gray chrysalis. Both colors are pictured for comparison.

The eggs were deposited on March 15, 2014. The caterpillars eclosed 5 days later, and took 16-17 days to pupate. The adults emerged after eight days. The entire cycle took 30 days.

American Lady Page