Painted lady

A painted lady (Vanessa cardui) spotted this morning at the far end of Lambrok Meadow and added to our 2019 butterfly list.


Painted ladies are incomers, migrants mainly from Europe but sometimes from as far away as north Africa; they begin to arrive here in April and May. Some years, they arrive in spectacular numbers.

The females lay their green eggs singly on the leaves of a variety of plants; thistles and nettles, which we have in abundance in the park, are their favourites. The eggs hatch in three to five days.

The caterpillar sheds its skin five times in the next twelve to eighteen days; each of these five stages is called an instar. The caterpillar in the picture below is in its final instar and will soon pupate. After pupation, the chrysalis hatches into an adult in approximately ten days.

None of the four stages (egg, larva, pupa, imago) can survive our winter. The latest research has indicated that a very few adults attempt a reverse migration in the autumn but nobody seems to know if any such attempt has been successful.

painted lady caterpillar by Harald Süpfle [CC-BY-SA-3.0]

Conservation status: since 2005 the abundance has declined by 85%

Click here for our 2019 butterfly list.

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