Station Spotlight: Painted lady (Vanessa cardui)

Small spotted orange, black, and white butterfly in tall grass

Painted lady (Vanessa cardui)

Painted lady butterflies belong to the family Nymphalidae, also known as brush-footed butterflies. As these insects grow through their life cycle, the butterfly itself only lives for two weeks. During this time, the female butterflies will mate and reproduce to start the cycle again. The caterpillars live from 12-18 days long, going through five stages of instars, or developmental periods. As adults, these butterflies can reach 5-6 cm wide.

These butterflies are widespread across the globe. They are found in every state of the U.S. and throughout Canada as well. They persist in a myriad of habitats, which helps during their long migration from North Africa to Asia and the Middle East all the way to Europe! In the U.S., these butterflies can be seen migrating from the deserts of Mexico and travelling northward in the spring. During their intense migration, these butterflies travel up to 100 miles a day and at 30 MPH! In addition to the boundless areas reached by the Painted lady, over 100 plants have been documented to be the host for Painted lady caterpillars. Families include Asteraceae and Fabaecea, with 23,600 and 18,000 described species respectively.

Written by Anna Cressman
PC: Anna Cressman