Painted Lady Butterfly

Vanessa cardui

Painted Lady Butterfly, Painted Lady

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A close up of a Painted Lady Vanessa cardui on a flower
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The Painted Lady Butterfly is a long-distance migrant. They originate within the fringes of North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia; migrating to Europe and the UK during summer months. They arrive in Europe during late March, gradually increasing in numbers during May. They're a medium-sized butterfly, showing a preference for mallows, common nettle and vipers bugloss. These butterflies do well during warmer summers when food plants are most abundant.


A pretty garden visitor across the world.


Adults: Newly emerged adults are vividly orange, black and white. The forewings tend to appear as burnt orange with black tips and white spots, as opposed to the hindwings which have black spots. The main body is brown. At rest, the wings are a mixture of browns, greys and whites, with 5 eyespots on the hindwing. Unfortunately, the orange colouring fades as these butterflies get older. Larvae: The larvae are velvety, spiny black-grey caterpillars. The hairs or spines are white and black. There's a notable creamy-yellow stripe that runs laterally down the body. Pupae: cocoons, are generally formed using the food plant or shrub, spun and bonded with silk. They look a bit like a malformed dead leaf. Eggs: Laid singly on the food plant; they are green, tiny and difficult to see with the naked eye.











Everywhere but Antarctica

Biological treatment

Butterflies are essential pollinators. It's advised to tolerate them wherever possible. You can always remove by hand and place somewhere else if there are too many for the plant to support. Caterpillars and butterflies have an abundance of natural enemies that control numbers. They include birds, small mammals, spiders and wasps. Attract the latter by leaving 'wild patches' in the garden; alternatively, provide a log pile, water feature, hanging baskets or climbing plants!


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