Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa cardui)


A migrant butterfly and regular visitor, the Painted Lady may be found almost anywhere in the UK, arriving each year in varying numbers from a migration that begins in North Africa and continues throughout Europe.

The first Painted Lady butterflies may arrive in the country as early as March, and as the population increases into the summer they will often breed.

The female butterfly lays her eggs mainly on thistle leaves, usually just one per leaf, the success of the new brood relies very much upon dry warm weather in the early stages.

Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa cardui) August

Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa cardui)


  • Family Group: Nymphalidae – Browns
  • Subfamily: Nymphalinae.
  • Status: Migrant.
  • Habitat: from Gardens to Mountain tops
  • Caterpillar food plant: Thistles, Common Nettles, Mallows
  • Adult Nectar plant: Thistles, Knapweed, Ragwort Buddleia.
  • Wingspan around: 60mm
  • Photograph: Painted Lady Butterfly feeding on white buddleia davidii- August 09
  • (record numbers where reported in the south and east of England in summer 2009)
Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa cardui) on Knapweed

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) on Knapweed

The number of Painted Lady butterflies reach their peak in August and then fall away over the next couple of months.

Being a wide range migrant, the Painted Lady can be found almost world wide, and has many food sources ranging from Thistles, Knapweed, Vipers Bugloss and various cultivated garden Plants and shrubs like buddleia.

Upper wings are tawny orange with black markings and white spots on the tips. Under wings mottled brown and white with small-eye spots.

Painted lady butterfly strikingly patterned under-wings at chambers farm wood

Painted lady butterfly strikingly patterned under-wings

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