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Painted lady - Vanessa cardui
Painted lady - Vanessa cardui

Painted lady
The painted lady [Vanessa cardui - more precisely Vanessa (Cynthia) cardui – synonym Papilio cardui], also known as the cosmopolitan butterfly, belongs to the subgenus Vanessa (Cynthia), in the order butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) - unranked: Rhopalocera – suborder Glossata, infraorder Heteroneura (division : Ditrysia), superfamily Papilionoidea, family brush-footed butterflies (Nymphalidae) - also known as four-footed butterflies, subfamily Nymphalinae, tribe Nymphalini), and the genus Vanessa.
Nymphalidae - Vanessa cardui
Nymphalidae - Vanessa cardui
The painted lady is found on the subtropical plains. This species is common and is encountered in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. In Europe, the painted lady is a permanent resident in the Mediterranean region only.
Painted lady - Top view
Painted lady - Top view
Adult Vanessa cardui reach wing spans of 45-60 mm. Their forewings have black tips with white spots which bear a certain resemblance to the wing tips of the red admiral (Vanessa atalanta). The base of the forewings is yellowish brown. The inner area of the wing is orange with black patches. The pattern on the forewings’ underside is a distinctly paler version of that on the upper surface. On the upper edge (of the forewings’ upper surface) there are 2 large bright spots. The black area on the wing tips can be interspersed or mottled with brown or shades from orange to red.
Butterfly - Painted lady
Butterfly - Painted lady
The hind wings of the painted lady also have a yellowish-brown base. Their colouration is similar to that of the forewing. However the spots on the outer edge are black in colour. The remaining spots are much fainter. The underside of the hind wings has a white base colour and is mottled with various shades of brown. On the outer edge, there are 5 eye-spots of differing sizes. A special characteristic of the painted lady is its screw-shaped flight pattern.
Painted lady butterflies are migratory. In the spring (sometimes at the end of summer or in early autumn), the butterflies leave the warm climes where they originate and migrate to the temperate regions south of the Arctic Circle, where they remain until at least early November. In Europe, painted ladies fly in from May to July.
In their areas of origin, they produce one new generation after another (they don’t go into diapause), however, in the more northern regions (depending on climatic conditions), they reproduce only once or twice. The adult butterflies of the first new generation appear in July/August, the second generation in September / October. Butterflies of both new generations make their way south in autumn. Many do not make it across the Alpine border and die on the glaciers. In other cases (such as in the British Isles) painted ladies die before their return flight starts.
Painted ladies prefer warm and dry habitats. They are often found in large numbers in areas with a lot of thistles. They feed on nectar, which they suck from the flowers of the thistle (Cirsium) or other flowering plants like butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii). After mating, the fertilized females seek out the food plants of the larvae where they lay their eggs on the upperside of the leaves. The eggs are shaped like a cone, grooved, and greenish-grey in colour. They remain on the leaves for 3 to 5 days before the larvae hatch. When the larvae (caterpillars) have hatched, they build a tissue on the leaf, which initially covers the tip and then the whole leaf, under which they can eat undisturbed. The web, however (as in the case of thistles) between leaf growth and stem can be mounted.
Painted lady caterpillars reach lengths of 35-40 mm. Their bodies have a light yellow to greenish-brown base colour. On the surface, a fine, dark pattern can be discerned, which varies in form. The caterpillars have a shape like a ring and branching spines on each segment of their bodies. The rings lie between the spines and are (like the entire back) usually more yellowish, while the base of the spines is more reddish. Other caterpillars of the same species are much brighter, with a high proportion of white.
Painted lady caterpillars feed on a variety of different plant families, above all,mallow (Malvaceae), Compositae (Asteraceae), Cucurbits (Cucurbitaceae), legume (Fabaceae), wine grape (Vitaceae), borage (Boraginaceae) and cabbage (Brassicaceae). They particularly like the ordinary thistle (Cirsium vulgare), cabbage thistle (Cirsium oleraceum), Carduus thistles (Carduus sp.) and other plants from the thistle family. Painted lady caterpillars are also found on musk mallow (Malva moschata) and nettle (Urtica dioica).
The caterpillars of the first new generation appear in June/July, those of the second generation appear in August/September. After 7-11 days the caterpillars are fully developed and pupate. The pupa is about 25 mm long, grey-brown to greenish-grey in colour and hangs upside down. The pupa remains in this position for approximately another 7-11 days until the new adult painted lady butterfly hatches.

Vanessa cardui
Common namesCosmopolitan Painted Lady, The Painted Lady, Cosmopolitan, Painted Lady
German namesDistelfalter
Dutch namesDistelvlinder
Danish namesTidselsommerfugl
Finnish namesOhdakeperhonen
Norwegian namesTistelsommerfugl
Swedish namesTistelfjäril
Spanish namesBella Dama, Cardera, Cardero
Italian namesVanessa del cardo
French namesVanesse des Chardons, Belle-Dame, Vanesse de L´Artichaut, Vanesse du Chardon, Nymphe des Chardons, Belle dame, La
AuthorCarl von Linné (Carl Nilsson Linnæus), 1758
Eco zoneFreshwater

North Europe (British Isles (United Kingdom (Great Britain (England (South England (Southeast England (Kent (East Kent (Folkestone), North Kent), Isle of Wight, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Sussex (East Sussex, West Sussex), Surrey county), Southwest England (Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Wiltshire, Isles of Scilly, Dorsetshire, Devonshire), Greater London), East England (Suffolk, Hertfordshire, Essex, Cambridgeshire (Huntingdonshire)), English Midlands (East Midlands (Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire), West Midlands (Herefordshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire)), North England (Northwest England (Cumbria, Lancashire, Merseyside), Northeast England (Northumberland, County Durham))), Wales (South Wales (Southwest Wales (Pembrokeshire)), Mid Wales (Brecknockshire), North Wales (Denbighshire)), Scotland), Northern Ireland), Ireland), Germany (West Germany (North Rhine-Westphalia)), Scandinavia (Norway (Troms, Vestfold, Aust-Agder, Vest-Agder, Akershus, Buskerud, Nordland, Oslo, Rogaland, Telemark, Hedmark, Hordaland, Nord-Trøndelag, Oppland, Sogn and Fjordane, Sør-Trøndelag, Østfold), Sweden, Denmark), Fennoscandia (Finland (Åland Islands)), Baltic region (Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania)), Iceland), West Europe (Austria, France (South France (Corsica, Occitania (Midi-Pyrenees))), Switzerland, Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg), Liechtenstein, Channel Islands (Guernsey)), South Europe (Italy (Italy Islands (Sicily, Sardinia), North Italy, South Italy (Abruzzo (L´Aquila)), Central Italy (Lazio (Rome))), Iberian Peninsula (Spain (South Spain (Andalusia)), Portugal, Andorra)), Central Europe (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic (Moravia, Bohemia), Slovakia), Southeast Europe (Romania, Yugoslavia (Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia (Republic of Macedonia), Serbia and Montenegro (Serbia, Montenegro), Bosnia and Herzegovina), Bulgaria, Greece (Aegean Islands (Crete)), Albania, Moldova), East Europe (Ukraine, Belarus), Malta
Far East (Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia)), East Asia (China (Central China (South-central China (Hong Kong))), Taiwan, Japan, Mongolia, Korea (North Korea, South Korea))), South Asia (Nepal, India (South India (Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu), West India (Gujarat, Western Ghats), Northeast India (Meghalaya), North India (Chandigarh)), Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh), West Asia (Near East (Turkey, Cyprus, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar), Palestine), Central Asia (Tajikistan, Turkestan (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan)), North Asia
Armenia, Georgia
Siberia (Russian Far East (Sakhalin Oblast (Sakhalin))), European Russia (North European Russia (Leningrad Oblast))
Australia (East Australia (Queensland, Victoria), South Australia, West Australia)
New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea
New Zealand, Hawaii (Kaua´i), Norfolk Island
East Africa
Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Indian Ocean islands (Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion), Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Eritrea
Central Africa
Angola, Cameroon, Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
North Africa
Algeria, Tunisia, Macaronesia (Canary Islands (La Gomera), Cape Verde, Azores, Madeira), Morocco, Libya, Sahara (West Sahara)
West Africa
Togo, Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Senegal, Benin
Southern Africa
Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Republic South Africa
South America
Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, French Guiana, Peru, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay
North America
Mexico, USA (Florida, Louisiana, California, Montana, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas (Travis County), Mississippi, New Jersey, South Carolina, Arizona, New Mexico, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Alabama, New York, Virginia, Iowa, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Nebraska, South Dakota, Delaware, Vermont, North Dakota), Canada (Ontario, British Columbia), Bermuda Islands (Bermuda), Saint Pierre and Miquelon
Central America
Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica, Honduras
Caribbean islands (Trinidad and Tobago (Tobago), Antilles (Greater Antilles (Cuba, Haiti, Cayman Islands, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico), Lesser Antilles (Windward Islands (Dominica, Martinique), Leeward Islands (Guadeloupe), Netherlands Antilles)), Saint Barthélemy)

World Oceans:

Atlantic Ocean
British overseas territory Atlantic
Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha (Saint Helena)


West Palaearctic

Fossils: Paleozoic,

Distribution by Synonymus:
Cynthia cardui   Papua New Guinea, Saint Helena
Vanessa huntera   America
Cynthia cardui   Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
Vanessa carduelis   Cap de Bonne Espérance
CountriesAfghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Dominica, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lesotho, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, North Korea, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, USA, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Links and ReferencesVanessa cardui in
Vanessa cardui in
Vanessa cardui in
Vanessa cardui in
Vanessa cardui in
Vanessa cardui in Wikipedia (English)

Description of images / photos
Photography with Cameras
Nikon D3x, Nikon D300, Canon 50D
Image editing with Photoshop
1. Painted lady - Vanessa cardui
2. Nymphalidae - Vanessa cardui
3. Painted lady - Top view
4. Butterfly - Painted lady
Quick search: Lady - Painted - Butterfly - Pattern - Flight - Vanessa
Caterpillars - Butterflies - Brown - Colour - Generation - Base - Spots - Black
Sources, links and more informations
Painted lady in Wikipedia
Painted lady - Vanessa cardui
Insects, True insects
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Lepidopterans, Butterflies and Moths
True butterflies, Butterflies
Brush Footed Butterflies, Fritillaries, Browns, Admirals, Four-footed butterflies, Brushfoot butterflies, Purples, Mourningclocks, Crescent-spots, Checker-spots, Anglewings, Brushfooted Butterflies
True Brushfoots, Anglewings, Tortoiseshells, Thistle butterflies, Peacocks, True Brush-foots, Crescents, Checkerspots, Brushfoots, Admirals
True Brushfoots
Indian Red Admirals, Admirals, Painted Ladies, Ladies and Red Admiral, Red admirals, Red Admiral, Painted Lady
Vanessa cardui
Cosmopolitan Painted Lady, The Painted Lady, Cosmopolitan, Painted Lady
AuthorLinnaeus, 1758
Cynthia cardui
Cynthia jacksoni
Papilio belladona
Papilio carduelis
Papilio cardui
Parameis cardui
Pyrameis ate
Pyrameis cardui
Pyrameis cardui inops
Pyrameis cardui japonica
Pyrameis cardui litoralis
Pyrameis cardui rogeri
Pyrameis minor
Vanessa ab. albicans
Vanessa ab. ate
Vanessa ab. browni
Vanessa ab. carduelina
Vanessa ab. carduelis
Vanessa ab. carnea
Vanessa ab. flava
Vanessa ab. infralutea
Vanessa ab. inornata
Vanessa ab. johni
Vanessa ab. maria
Vanessa ab. martha-maria
Vanessa ab. melanosa
Vanessa ab. minor
Vanessa ab. ocellata
Vanessa ab. pallens
Vanessa ab. pallida
Vanessa ab. priameis
Vanessa ab. rogeri
Vanessa ab. rosea
Vanessa ab. schoenfellneri
Vanessa ab. subfracta
Vanessa ab. takesakiana
Vanessa ab. varini
Vanessa ab. wiskotti
Vanessa albicans
Vanessa albipuncta
Vanessa ate
Vanessa belladonna
Vanessa browni
Vanessa brunnea-albimaculata
Vanessa carduelina
Vanessa carduelis
Vanessa cardui
Vanessa cardui jacksoni
Vanessa cardui japonica
Vanessa cardui littoralis
Vanessa cardui semisuffusa
Vanessa cardui universa
Vanessa cardui ushuwaia
Vanessa carnea
Vanessa conjuncta
Vanessa elymi
Vanessa emielymi
Vanessa flava
Vanessa hemielymi
Vanessa huntera
Vanessa infrabrunnea
Vanessa infraflava
Vanessa infragrisea
Vanessa infralutea
Vanessa infranigrans
Vanessa infraochracea
Vanessa inops
Vanessa inornata
Vanessa jacksoni
Vanessa japonica
Vanessa johni
Vanessa leachiana
Vanessa litoralis (de
Vanessa maria
Vanessa martha-maria
Vanessa melanosa
Vanessa minor
Vanessa nigripuncta
Vanessa ocellata
Vanessa ochracea
Vanessa pallens
Vanessa pallida
Vanessa priameis
Vanessa rogeri
Vanessa rosacea
Vanessa rosea
Vanessa schoenfellneri
Vanessa septiespupillata
Vanessa sexiespupillata
Vanessa subfracta
Vanessa takesakiana
Vanessa universa
Vanessa ushuwaia
Vanessa varini
Vanessa wiskotti
Vanessa cardui albipuncta
Vanessa cardui brunnea-albimaculata
Vanessa cardui carduelina
Vanessa cardui cardui
Vanessa cardui conjuncta
Vanessa cardui elymi
Vanessa cardui emielymi
Vanessa cardui huntera
Vanessa cardui jacksoni
Vanessa cardui japonica
Vanessa cardui kershawi
Vanessa cardui littoralis
Vanessa cardui nigripuncta
Vanessa cardui ocellata
Vanessa cardui ochracea
Vanessa cardui pallida
Vanessa cardui priameis
Vanessa cardui rogeri
Vanessa cardui rosea
Vanessa cardui semisuffusa
Vanessa cardui septiespupillata
Vanessa cardui sexiespupillata
Vanessa cardui universa
Vanessa cardui ushuwaia
Vanessa cardui varini
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