- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
There she was--a gorgeous orange-and-black butterfly sipping nectar from a rosemary bush near the Glen Cove Marina, Vallejo.
She seemed so out of place and out of season. It was Sunday morning, Feb. 11, and we were east of the Carquinez Bridge, with the temperature pushing 70 degrees after a raucous winter storm.
The butterfly? A West Coast Lady, Vanessa annabella (as identified by Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology. It's often confused with Vanessa cardui, commonly known as "Painted Lady."
"Adults 'hibernate,' but near sea level can be seen sunbathing and being territorial on sunny, mild days all winter long," he writes on his website. "There is probably some altitudinal migration, but no evidence of latitudinal migration as in V. cardui."
"Host plants are herbaceous Mallows, including Cheeseweed (Malva), Alkali Mallow (Malvella), and Hollyhock (Alcea); not recorded locally on Velvet Leaf (Abutilon theophrasti). The species also uses Urticaceae. Several broods, the entire season at any given location."
Shapiro describes the West Coast Lady as "an earnest and generalist flower visitor. In winter often seen on flowers of Rosemary, Escallonia (an evergreen shrub or hedge) and Salpichroa (nightshade family) in gardens."
Our West Coast Lady soaked up a little sunshine and a little nectar and off she fluttered.