Painted Lady

Vanessa cardui

Painted Ladies are medium-sized butterflies, with a wingspan of two inches. The top sides of their wings are orange with black blotches and white spots. Underneath, wing color is a beautiful combination of pink, brown, olive, black, and white.

Painted Ladies live just about everywhere, especially meadows, parks, and gardens.

These butterflies migrate from the South every Spring. They lay their eggs on host plants (food for caterpillars), which include: thistles, American Elm, Black Cherry, English Plantain, and daisies.

When cold weather arrives, Painted Ladies head back South, though most of them don't seem to make it. The migration of these butterflies is still a great mystery.

Simon Coombes

Copyright, Will Cook

Painted Lady eggs are pale green and barrel-shaped. They are laid on the leaves of host plants. When caterpillars hatch they begin eating right away. Caterpillars are black with yellow markings, and they grow over an inch long before they turn to pupae (resting stage).

They pupa of a butterfly is called a chrysalis. A Painted Lady chrysalis is brown and bumpy. After a couple of weeks, adult Painted Lady butterflies will emerge from their chrysalises.

Adult butterflies sip nectar from many different flowers, including goldenrods, milkweeds, asters, Joe-pye Weed, Ironweed, Red Clover, and Blazing Star.

Simon Coombes

Male Painted Ladies are very territorial. They will scout out a place and find a good perch to guard it. If any other males come near, he will chase them away. He will wait patiently there until a female arrives.

When many caterpillars hatch close together, they will form silk nests, much like tent caterpillars do.

Predators of Painted Ladies include birds, dragonflies, mantids, and other insect-eaters.

Huntley Meadows Park

Additional Media

Description
Type
Credit
Painted Lady Laying Eggs
Video
Virginia Tech Department of Entomology
Painted Lady Caterpillar Hatching from Egg
Video
Virginia Tech Department of Entomology
Painted Lady Caterpillar Eating
Video
Virginia Tech Department of Entomology
Painted Lady Coloring Page #1
Link to Printable Page
EnchantedLearning.com
Painted Lady Coloring Page #2
Link to Printable Page
EnchantedLearning.com
Butterfly Anatomy Diagram
Link to Printable Page
EnchantedLearning.com
Painted Lady Life Cycle Diagram
Link to Printable Page
EnchantedLearning.com
Download Quicktime if you are unable to play video.

Relationships in Nature:

FOOD
PREDATORS
SHELTER
OTHER

Bull Thistle

Great-crested Flycatcher

Bull Thistle

American Goldfinch SP

American Elm

Green Darner

American Elm

Black-eyed Susan Po H

English Plantain

Chinese Mantid

English Plantain

Red Clover Po

Black Cherry

Red-winged Blackbird

Black Cherry

Common Milkweed Po

Goldenrod

Eastern Box Turtle

Lamb's Quarters

Spotted Joe-pye Weed Po

Common Milkweed

Least Shrew

Bushy Aster

Goldenrod Po

Spotted Joe-pye Weed

Eastern Chipmunk

Buttonbush Po

Ironweed

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Bushy Aster Po

Red Clover

White-breasted Nuthatch

American Elm H

Lamb's Quarters

Northern Ringneck Snake

Black Cherry H

Black-eyed Susan

Wood Frog

Bull Thistle H

Buttonbush

Copperhead

English Plantain H

Bushy Aster

Black Carpenter Ant

Fiery Searcher

Pennsylvania Firefly

Goldenrod Spider

Five-lined Skink

Northern Cardinal

American Robin

Bald-faced Hornet

Relationship to Humans:

Painted Ladies are considered beautiful by most people and are welcomed in gardens. They also help pollinate flowers by accidentally gathering pollen on their legs and antennae. They then deliver the pollen to other flowers of the same type. This is helpful if the plants are flowers people want more of, but it is annoying if they are pollinating weeds, such as Red Clover or English Plantain.

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

KINGDOM
Animal
PHYLUM
Arthropod
CLASS
Insect
ORDER
Lepidoptera
FAMILY
Nymphalidae
GENUS
Vanessa
SPECIES
Vanessa cardui

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