painted lady (Vanessa cardui)
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Confirmed.
FAMILY: Brush-footed Butterflies (Nymphalidae)
SUBFAMILY: True Brushfoots (Nymphalinae)
IDENTIFICATION: Upperside is orange-brown with darker wing bases;
forewing with black apex patch and white bar on leading edge; hindwing
submarginal row of 5 small black spots sometimes has blue scales.
Underside has a black, brown, and gray pattern with 4 small submarginal
LIFE HISTORY: Males perch and patrol during the afternoon for recep-
tive females. In the West males usually perch on shrubs on hilltops, while
in the East males perch on bare ground in open areas. Females lay eggs
singly on the tops of host plant leaves. Caterpillars live in silk nests and
eat leaves. Adults hibernate only in the South and in mild winters.
FLIGHT: One to three flights in the East from May-October, three to four
flights in South Texas from October-April.
WING SPAN: 2 - 2 7/8 inches (5.1 - 7.3 cm).
CATERPILLAR HOSTS: More than 100 host plants have been noted;
favorites include thistles (Asteraceae), hollyhock and mallow
(Malvaceae), and various legumes (Fabaceae).
ADULT FOOD: The Painted Lady prefers nectar from composites 3-6 feet
high, especially thistles; also aster, cosmos, blazing star, ironweed, and
joe-pye weed. Flowers from other families that are visited include red
clover, buttonbush, privet, and milkweeds.
HABITAT: Almost everywhere, especially in open or disturbed areas
including gardens, old fields, dunes.
RANGE: On all continents except Australia and Antarctica. From the
deserts of northern Mexico, the Painted Lady migrates and temporarily
colonizes the United States and Canada south of the Arctic. Occasionally,
population explosions in Mexico will cause massive northward migrations.
Comments: The Painted Lady is also known as the Thistle Butterfly
because of the caterpillars' food preference and also as the Cosmopolitan
because it is the most widely distributed butterfly in the world.
CONSERVATION: Not required.
NATURESERVE GLOBAL STATUS: G5 - Demonstrably secure globally,
though it may be quite rare in parts of its range, especially at the
MANAGEMENT NEEDS: None reported.
SKY MEADOWS OCCURRENCE:
Note: Due to seasonal conditions in this region, occurrence may vary from
year to year. The designation of occurrence may range over two or more
categories and may vary even during a single season.
Key to Checklist
A Abundant: Easy to see very large numbers of individuals in appropriate habitat
at proper time of year.
C Common: Usually each to see good numbers of individuals in appropriate habitat
at proper time of year.
U Uncommon: Sometimes found in appropriate habitat and proper time of year,
usually in low numbers.
O Occasional: Found in appropriate habitat perhaps only a few times a year, usually
in low numbers.
R Rare: Small chance of being found, even in appropriate habitat at proper time of
year. There are few individuals and may not be present every year.
X Extirpated: Formerly present, no longer occurs in Sky Meadows Park.
Crooked Run Valley