Cosmopolitan Painted Lady

Cosmopolitan Painted Lady Vanessa cardui

Type of Animal:
Brush-Footed Butterfly

Open areas, meadows, fields, disturbed areas, roadsides, sunny areas, parks, dunes, vacant lots, flower areas, areas sheltered by hedgerows, agricultural areas, suburban areas, areas w/ Malvaceae/Asteraceae/Verbenaceae/Plantaginaceae plants, mountainous areas, desert, waste areas, swamps, bogs, marshes, tundra, chaparral, woodlands, forests, scrub forest, savanna, fruit areas, river shores

Worldwide except for Antarctica

Orange & black butterfly w/ white spots on dark forewing tips & white cobwebbing on brown hindwing undersides, 4 small eyespots on hindwing undersides. Caterpillars go through 5 instars (development phases). Earlier instars appear worm-like w/ light gray body/darker bulbous head. Older instars darker & mottled w/ white & orange markings as well as spinier.

Adults feed on flower nectar, sugar-water, fruit juice, & aphid honeydew. Caterpillars eat plants in aster/composite/sunflower family (Asteraceae), mallow family (Malvaceae), verbena/vervain family (Verbenaceae), & plantain family (Plantaginaceae).

Status in Wild:

Breeding in butterfly gardens, zoos, aquariums, & museums

Groups range from 8 all the way to the tens of thousands. Larger groups seen in migrations.

Additional Info:

Young: Caterpillar
Group: Flutter

3-5 days

Life Span:
1-3 months

Body Length/Wingspan:
Male: 1.18-1.75 in
Female: 1.25-2.5 in
Caterpillar: 1.5 in

Main predators are birds, reptiles, frogs, ants, spiders, wasps, & dragonflies.

Females lay eggs singly on leaves of host plants. After 3-5 days, eggs hatch into caterpillars. Caterpillar stage lasts 2-4 weeks, in which they go through 5 instars (development phases). After 5th instar, they transition to pupal (chrysalis) stage which lasts 1-4 weeks. Adult stage can last from 6 days all the way to 7 weeks.

These butterflies resident only in some warmer areas. Migratory in much of range-these migrations don’t necessarily follow set pattern.

Caterpillars construct silk tents.

Males & females can breed more than once in their lifetime. 

These butterflies can produce as many as 6 generations a year.

On overcast days, these butterflies huddle in small depressions.

Worldwide Painted Lady Migration citizen science project led by Barcelona-based Institute of Evolutionary Biology has revealed just how big their range of migration is.

Fun Fact(s):
Get cosmopolitan name due to wide distribution-in fact, world’s most widely distributed butterfly. Also called thistle butterflies due to caterpillars loving thistles. Generalist diet & habitat preferences help these butterflies have wide range.

They can fly 100 miles a day in migrations.

These butterflies bred in schools for educational purposes & used for butterfly releases at hospices/memorials/weddings.

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