Painted Lady & American Lady
This American Lady is more faded than the fresh individual above. American Ladies are present in Ohio earlier in the year than Painted Ladies. I find American Ladies from March through October, and they are usually numerous in spring and early summer. Painted Ladies, on the other hand, are more often found in late summer and fall. I have seen Painted Ladies as early as May 19th, but they are usually scarce before July.
This is a Painted Lady on a zinnia. Notice that the forewing tip is round instead of square, there is no white dot in a rectangular forewing cell, and the four dots on the bottom of the hindwing are about the same size (as opposed to American Ladies, which have the first and fourth dots larger).
At first glance, there is nothing special about this photo ... until you know the date when it was taken: December 2, 2017. This Painted Lady is one of only four butterfly species that I have seen in the month of December (the others are Orange and Clouded Sulphurs and Eastern Commas).
This an American Lady nectaring on a flower. American Ladies can be distinguished from the similar Painted Ladies in several ways. American Ladies have square-shaped forewing tips, a white dot inside the rectangular forewing cell, and blue centers inside the first and fourth dots on the bottom of the hindwing.
This is a ventral view of an American Lady on echinacea. Notice that it has two large eyespots on the hindwing (and a white dot in the rectangular cell).
For contrast, here is a ventral view of a Painted Lady. It has four small eyespots on the hindwing rather than two large ones.
Painted Ladies are migratory, and their numbers fluctuate widely from year to year. 2016 was a bad year for this species. The individual at left was one of only two Painted Ladies that I saw in 2016. Fortunately, they rebounded nicely in subsequent years.
Painted Ladies are avid nectarers. This individual was photographed on a zinnia at Cox Arboretum.