As I took the mower along the field trail, I flushed several American Painted Lady Butterflies from the grass. After I had completed my work, I took the time to examine a few at closer range. American Painted Ladies have been active for the past few weeks and this ragged individual looks like it’s been around that whole time.
This is what was attracting the butterflies. American Painted Lady larvae feed on the leaves of Pussytoes, Antennaria species. I purposely raise the mower deck so the plants on the trail are not unduly stressed by the mowing. Short growing plants, like the Pussytoes, are not touched by the mower blade. The mower does remove the flower stalks and this causes the plants to spread even more. The result is a concentration of Pussytoes on the trail that is greater than anywhere else in the field.
The dense population of Pussytoes draws in a large crowd of American Painted Ladies.
The females do a quick search to select a suitable site for an egg. I wonder if part of the search may be to determine if an egg has already been deposited in the area. Discovery of an egg may cause the female to move on to another location that won’t result in competition between larvae.
A single egg is left behind. I was able to discover an egg on nearly every plant I examined.
The egg is anchored by the long hairs on the Pussytoe leaf. American Painted Ladies have multiple broods through the summer. The frequency of butterflies seen now indicates that American Painted Ladies may be super abundant later this summer. This is a common butterfly that is easy to approach and observe. I’m glad that it benefits by my trail maintenance activities.