Painted lady butterfly

  • Scientific name: Vanessa cardui
  • Type: Insects

Key information

Painted lady butterflies have a pale buffy-orange background colour to the upper wings. The forewings have black tips marked with white spots; the hindwings have rows of black spots. The undersides are pale with blue eyespots.

Painted ladies do not hibernate in Britain; instead they migrate to and from northern Africa. They can arrive in early spring, but late May and June are more usual. They are fairly common across Britain, numerous in some years.

Females lay their small, green eggs on a range of species, such as nettles and mallows, but thistles are the general favourite. When the caterpillars hatch they begin to eat the underside of the leaf. As they grow, each constructs a tent of folded leaves fastened with silk.

Caterpillars pupate and remain suspended in a large tent of leaves until the adults emerge in August and September. The whole British population dies or emigrates to Africa in the autumn.

Caterpillars are black, speckled with tiny white spots and have a yellow stripe down each side. They are covered in spines.

What they eat:

Adults drink nectar from flowers. Caterpillars eat thistles, stinging nettles and mallows.



Identifying features:

Natural habitats: Fence/wall Flower border Hanging basket Hedge Herb garden Meadow area Nettle patch Patio Shrub Window box

Where and when to see them

Painted lady butterflies can be seen feeding on a variety of nectar-rich flowers. Basking in the sunshine. Caterpillars can be seen on thistles. Also in parks, meadows, roadsides, hedgerows.

Adults can be seen from May to October. Caterpillars from May to September.

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