Thursday, October 1, 2009

Painted lady butterflies similar to monarchs in that they migrate; monarchs depend on milkweed; painted ladies love thistle

Please click on image to ENLARGE photo of Vanessa cardui.

Please click on image to ENLARGE October 10, 2008, photo of a painted-lady butterfly on World Peace Wetland Prairie.

Painted Lady

Painted Ladies are noted for their colorful wings and distinctive antennae. The adult, with wings painted orange/yellow, black and white, has straight, bulbous-ended antennae.

The Painted Lady (2.0-2.3") is widely distributed across the North American continent from southern New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Ontario to Florida and westward to the Pacific Ocean. There are populations in Mexico.

Vanessa cardui is a widespread butterfly in temperate and some tropical areas. It also known as the thistle butterfly and the cosmopolitan. The Painted Lady has a 2 - 2 7/8 inches (5.1 - 7.3 cm) wingspan. Adults sip thistle nectar and some hibernate. The life cycle begins with tiny, pale green eggs. The yellow-striped, brown-green spiny caterpillar builds a silky, webbed nest, usually in thistle. Family: Nymphalidae

The Painted Lady may be the most widespread butterfly in the world. It also known as the thistle butterfly and the cosmopolitan (because it is so widespread, occurring in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa). This flying insect lives in temperate and some tropical areas.

Egg: The Painted Lady begins its life cycle as an egg that is the size of a pin head. Eggs are pale green with 12 to 14 longitudinal ridges; they are laid on thistle, mallow, or hollyhock leaves. The incubation period is 3 to 5 days.

Caterpillar (larva): The caterpillar eats continually for 5 to 10 days before it pupates. The yellow-green striped, purple to black caterpillar has long spines on each segment. The caterpillar is up to 1.25 inches (3 cm) long. It builds a silky, webbed nest as it feeds, usually eating thistle, mallow, malva, or hollyhock. As the larva grows, it sheds its skin (this is called molting). The time between sheddings is called an instar; each instar has slightly different coloring.

Chrysalis (pupa): When the caterpillar has grown to the right size, it pupates. It hangs upside-down from a leaf or branch, and attaches itself with a single silken string. An adult forms from the caterpillar, whose internal structure changes completely. The chrysalis becomes almost transparent when the butterfly is about to emerge. An adult will emerge about 7 to 10 days after the chrysalis has formed.

Adult: When an adult emerges from the split chrysalis, it hangs upside down and pumps blood into its four wings, inflating them.Then it waits for its delicate wings to dry. It can fly a few hours after emerging.

The adult Painted Lady is mostly black, brown, and orange with some white spots; the underside is gray with white and red markings. The adult has a 2 - 2 7/8 inch (5.1 - 7.3 cm) wingspan. Adults sip sweet thistle and clover nectar. Adults can mate in about a week after emerging; adults only live about 2 weeks.

Migration: Adults from colder parts of North America overwinter in Mexico; adults from northern Europe migrate to North Africa and southern Europe.

Classification: Order Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), Family Nymphalidae (brush-footed butterflies), Genus Vanessa, Species cardui.
Painted ladies enjoy open spaces. In the south there are many broods and sometimes migrations out of Mexico and into California occur.
Because this species is so quick and easy to rear, it is a popular species for educational displays and there are several sources of live pupae.
Larvae feed on malva, hollyhock, fiddleneck, and nettle.


Anonymous said...

Around the Fayetteville area this time of year painted ladies are seen on eupatorium altissimum (tall thoroughwart) and monarchs on verbesina virginica (crownbeard, frostweed, carpenter weed). These "weeds" are plentiful if allowed to grow. You might like to leave a few in your yard.

aubunique said...

Yes, they are both going to seed, maybe a bit early, right now in my yard and nearby World Peace Wetland Prairie and Pinnacle Prairie. They are not "weeds" to those of us who live and appreciate them!
Some people call dandelions "weeds" and try to eradicate them. Don't do that when rabbits are watching. They might call a meeting and attack your yard in gangs!