American painted lady (Vanessa virginiensis)—E.S. Ross
Either of two species of butterflies in the genus Vanessa (family Nymphalidae): V. cardui of Africa and Europe or V. virginiensis of North and Central America. They have broad, elaborately patterned wings of reddish orange, brown, white, and blue. In spring, vast numbers of V. cardui travel thousands of miles across the Mediterranean from Africa to Europe. A few members of the subsequent generation travel south in late summer, but most perish in the northern winter. North American painted ladies travel in spring from northwestern Mexico to the Mojave Desert and sometimes as far as Canada. Their larvae eat plants in the aster family; V. cardui larvae eat thistles and stinging nettles.