painted lady

(Vanessa cardui)

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

not yet assessed

painted lady


N5 - Secure
SNRB - Unranked Breeding


not listed




Usually two broods: early May to late May and June to mid-October


Fields, meadows, pastures, woodland edges, roadsides, and other open areas.


Wingspan: 2¾ to 2

Photo by Bill Reynolds


This is a migratory, medium-sized, brushfooted butterfly. It has a wingspan of 2 to 2. Males and females look alike. The summer form is larger and brighter orange, the winter form is paler and has smaller black marks.

The outer edge of the forewing is slightly scalloped and the tip (apex) is pointed. The upperside of the forewing is orangish-brown at the base, pinkish- or reddish-orange in the median area, and brownish-orange in the postmedian and marginal areas. The margin has a broad, black border with a prominent series of white, crescent-shaped marks (lunules) on the outer margin. Within the marginal border in the apical area there is a row of round, disconnected, orange spots and a row of thin, crescent-shaped, white spots. The apical area is black with a large, elongated, postmedian, always white spot at the leading (costal) edge and a curved row of smaller, round, submarginal, white spots. A jagged, black, interrupted, median band completely isolates an orange median spot.

The hindwing is rounded and slightly scalloped with series of white lunules on the outer margin that are sometimes connected to form a white fringe. The upper side of the hindwing is brownish-orange with a orangish-brown base and four bands of black spots: a marginal band of six disconnected spots; a submarginal band of six flattened spots, the outer four disconnected, the inner two (closest to the body) connected and with blue centers; a postmedian band of four round, disconnected spots; and a median band of four irregular, more or less connected spots. The postmedian spots on the summer form have blue centers, while those of the winter form do not.

The underside of the forewing is pinkish-orange near the base, orange in the median area, grayish-brown in the apical area, with white and black markings mirroring those on the upper surface.

The underside of the hindwing is irregularly banded and mottled with light and dark brown edged with white. There are two rows of spots: a postmedian row of four large eyespots with blue centers; and a submarginal row of eight flattened blue spots rimmed with black, the inner two spots (closest to the body) connected.

The caterpillar is variable in color and up to 1¾ long. Though fierce looking, they are harmless to the touch. The thorax and abdomen may be green, yellow, or pink to nearly black. They are finely spotted and moderately covered with long, straight, hair-like structures (seta). The spots are the expanded bases of the setae. There is usually a dark stripe bordered with two thin pale stripes in the middle of the upper (dorsal) surface. There are often light-colored spots between and just below the spiracles on most abdominal segments. These spots sometimes are joined into a single broad, jagged stripe. On the thorax and each abdominal segment there is a long, thick, stiff, branched spine (scolus) in the middorsal, subdorsal, and supraspiracular regions. The head is dark and is densely covered with long, straight, unbranched, white hairs but no scoli. The base of the leg-like structure (proleg) is densely hairy.

Mature caterpillars are found from May onward.


American lady (Vanessa virginiensis) is more orange above. The large spot in the apical area of the upperside of the forewing is often pale orange. The submarginal white spots in the apical area are smaller. The black medial band does not create an isolated orange spot. The postmedial spots on the hindwing are larger, are usually touching, and usually at least two of them have blue centers. There are only two eyespots on the underside of the hindwing, and those eyespots are larger. There is a large, pale, median band inward from the eyespots.

Larval Hosts

Plants of the aster (Asteraceae) family, especially thistles (Carduus spp. and Cirsium spp.) and burdock (Arctium spp.); also legumes (Fabaceae), and mallow (Malvaceae).

Adult Food

Flower nectar, mostly from 3 to 6 tall plants in the aster (Asteraceae) family.

Life Cycle

The male alternately perches on open bare ground waiting for a receptive female to fly by, and patrols and defends an area in search of a receptive female. After mating, the female lays green, ribbed, barrel-shaped eggs singly on the upperside of host plant leaves. The larva molts four times before pupating. The second brood adult migrates south in small groups in the fall, overwinters in a warmer area, returns north in large numbers in early May, and dies by late May.


Early stage caterpillars create solitary shelters by folding upward the sides of the leaf and securing it with silk.


Painted lady (Vanessa cardui) butterflies migrate south beginning in August and continuing through November. They overwinter in the southwestern United States and in northern Mexico. They migrate north in the spring in most years, temporarily repopulating the United States and Canada. Some years they do not migrate at all. In years of much rain on the wintering grounds the northward migrations are enormous. The El Niño of 2015 is expected to last into the spring of 2016 and should bring much rain to the wintering grounds of the painted lady.

Distribution Distribution Map   Sources: 7, 20, 21, 29, 71.





Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)











No Rank:



No Rank:




Papilionoidea (butterflies [excluding skippers])



Nymphalidae (brush-foots)



Nymphalinae (true brushfoots)









Cynthia (painted ladies)




painted lady









costal margin

The leading edge of the forewing of insects.



A crescent-shaped mark. On some butterflies, the marks, usually white, found in a series on the outer margin of the wing.



A fleshy structure on the abdomen of some insect larvae that functions as a leg, but lacks the five segments of a true insect leg.



The life stage of some insects undergoing transformation. In caterpillars, the chrysalis.



A spiny, branched projection from a larval body wall, the branches terminating with a single stiff, hair-like or bristle-like tip.



A usually rigid bristle- or hair-like structure on butterflies and moths used to sense touch. Plural: setae.



A small opening on the surface of an insect through which the insect breathes.
























Visitor Photos

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Bill Reynolds

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Tom Baker

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Copyright DianesDigitals

Painted Lady - Vanessa cardui

  Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
Andree Reno Sanborn
  Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)  
  Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
Bill Keim
  Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)  
  Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui)
Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren
  Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui)  




Visitor Videos

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Other Videos

  Painted Lady Butterflies Develop, Emerge in Time Lapse

Uploaded on Nov 13, 2008

Here we see the later life stages of several Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)Butterflies. Once the caterpillars are mature, they suspend themselves upside-down, by attaching a body part called the "cremaster" to a silken pad on the twig, much like the way Velcro works.

In about 1 day, the caterpillar sheds its final skin to complete the pupation process. Inside the pupa, the caterpillar has essentially liquified itself into a soup of cells. During the next 12-14 days, metamorphosis takes place - the cells are "re-arranged" and transformed into the adult insect. For most of this process, there is no visible change on the outside, but as the final few days approach, the developing adult butterfly can be seen through the semi-transparent pupal case. The butterfly's wing colors and pattern can be seen to darken. Finally, the fully developed adult separates from the pupal shell about an hour before it emerges, a process called "eclosion".

Once the adult emerges, it takes only a few minutes to expand its wings by pumping a body fluid into the wings' vein structure. After a couple of hours, the fluid dries and hardens, leaving the wings rigid enough propel it in flight.

The soundtrack is "Painted Ladies Theme" from the StarSpin EP/CD by Technician (yours truly), MP3 downloads and CDs available at the Technician website: HTTP://

Enjoy the show! :-)

Note: This is copyrighted material, however, you may download this footage directly from YouTube and use it free of charge in your own non-profit/non-commercial YouTube videos. The full free usage policy, and copyright notice/claim and partner ad info can be found here: and
(please read both sections before using JCMDI material - thanks!)

  ヒメアカタテハの蛹化 Painted Lady butterfly pupation time lapse

Published on May 20, 2013

ヒメアカタテハの蛹化。painted lady butterfly life cycle. Painted Lady. Painted Lady Butterfly emerging. painted lady butterfly chrysalis. Caterpillar. pupa. pupation. painted lady butterfly life cycle. Painted lady butterfly . distelfalter. distelvlinder. painted lady spinning pupa. painted lady butterfly chrysalis. pupating caterpillar. Pupating. painted lady spinning pupa. Vanessa cardui. cosmopolitan butterfly. Boyalı xanım. репейница. geschilderde dame. senyora pintada. Señora pintada. leptir čičkov. målad lady. señora pintada. nalíčená žena. лептир чичков. nalíčená žena. Distelfalter. benekli kırmızı kelebek. bogáncspillangó. дяволска пеперуда. Репейница. leptir čičkov. senhora pintada. wanita dicat. Usninukas. репейница. 작은 멋쟁이. Time Lapse. pupa. krizalidë. kepompong. chwiler. χρυσαλλίδα. crisálida. ดักแด้. kotelo. какавида. con nhộng. شفیره poczwarka. kūniņa. 번데기. Admiral butterfly. 化蛹的幼蟲. 蝶. 蛹. 幼虫. 毛虫から蛹に. 動画. video. PM6:30 20/5/2013 JAPAN. youtube. wanita dicat. Time Lapse. unboxing. Butterfly. féileacán. kəpənək. فراشة flutur. թիթեռ. Farfalla. פלאַטערל kupu-kupu. Glöynnod Byw. метелик. تیتلی liblikas. papilio. vlinder. Papallona. bolboreta. πεταλούδα. პეპელა papiyon. leptir. kupu. fjäril. mariposa. motýľ. metulj. kipepeo. лептир. ผีเสื้อ. paparo. motýl. Schmetterling. kelebek. pillangó. perhonen. papillon. пеперуда. bướm. פרפר матылёк. پروانه motyl. leptir. borboleta. пеперутка. Rama-rama. npuj npaim. papilio. tauriņš. peteliškė. fluture. бабочка. 나비. 蝴蝶. 蝶.

  Vanessa Cardui (Painted Lady) on coleus plant

Uploaded on Feb 13, 2010

Painted Lady (Vanessa Cardui) butterfly from Summer 2009, sitting on my hand, afterwards moving onto a coleus plant at my window, filmed at home.

  Painted Lady - Vanessa cardui - Butterfly Music Video

Uploaded on Aug 27, 2010

These little ladies are quite common in our Zinnia patch, and not nearly as skittish as the Monarchs when it comes to having their picture taken. The guitar in the audion portion has two capos on it. A 6-string capo below the 4th fret and a 5-string capo (actually a banjo capo, but it works well for 5 guitar strings) below the 6th fret. When I play a "D" chord, it comes out as G# with a low G# bass drone.

  Painted Lady / Distelvlinder (Vanessa Cardui)

Published on Jul 27, 2013

Painted Lady sucking nectar from thistleflowers
(Vanessa Cardui)
Distelvlinder zuigt nectar uit distelbloemen.

  Final Instar Painted Lady Vanessa cardui larvae
Ian Surman

Uploaded on Apr 25, 2011

No description available.

  Vanessa Cardui - Where Poetry Fails
Vanessa Cardui

Published on Apr 19, 2012

The first track from 'Thought Experiment', debut solo album from Canadian female recording artist Vanessa Cardui, as heard on CBC 1, CJTR, and DruidCast.

Painted Lady photos and Thought Experiment Release photos by Andy Letch of SpecOpsPhoto. Outdoor shots by Tremaine Lea. Backstage photos by Sora. Other photos by Erin Lindley.

This is incredible, finally I've found you
A scent like the holy shroud guided me through the crowd
We can't be apart knowing now what we know
We've been dying of loneliness night after night
Just like Adam and Eve in the wasteland of righteousness
Or mermaids in bellies of whales

And now I'm falling, falling so hard
Time sparkles and sings like a stream
Flowing around me, flowing away
It makes no difference to me

You could say anything
All that I'd hear is 'run away with me, be with me, live with me, die with me',
My jacket is on and I'm ready to go
Or don't say anything, nothing is beautiful too
Lips like yours have more interesting things to do
You are where poetry fails

Falling so hard, falling so hard
I'm moving as though in a dream
Time flows like water
But can't put out this fire in my skin

I would do anything just to be near you
So go and I'll follow you, catch you and swallow you
I won't spend the night alone ever again
And don't let it upset you if sometimes I cry to be
Never in you the way you are inside of me
Just fill me up and I'll never say when

Falling so hard
Falling so hard





Visitor Sightings

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Tom Baker


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Tom Baker


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Tom Baker


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Bill Reynolds

Location: Pennington Co. Minnesota

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