Painted Lady (Cosmopolitan) Butterfly

(Vanessa cardui)

The range of the Painted Lady occurs throughout North America, including Southern Alaska and Hawaii.

It is however, more likely to be seen in the northern United States and southern Canada.

This species is not a permanent resident as many butterflies are.

Painted Lady Cosmopolitan

It generally will recolonize from northern Mexico following the onset of spring and warmer weather.

Also known as the Cosmopolitan butterfly, it ranges throughout the world because of its emigrating habits.

Emigration, not migration may take place in great numbers as butterflies take off for lands unknown.

Rarely do emigrating individuals survive cold winters, but under favorable conditions, new butterflies will recolonize from south of the border the following spring.


The Painted Lady butterfly is mostly orange above, with black and white wing tips and lack spots on the hind wings.

It is many-patterned below, with a row of tiny eyespots on the hind wings.

From wing tip to wing tip, this butterfly measures 2 inches to 2 and 1/2 inches


The species frequents gardens, parks, meadows, deserts, and open fields.

You can attract these ladies with little effort as long as you have nectar flowers.


Sometimes it emigrates in mass and can be seen flying low to the ground.

Male usually perch and wait for passing females, but there are times when they patrol for them as well.

Larvae and Hosts:

Larvae feed on a wide variety of host plants, but they especially like thistle (Cirsium).

They also enjoy mallow (Malva) and hollyhock (Alcea).

Painted Lady Larvae

The larvae are greenish, mottled with black, and have dark hairy spines running down the body.

Nectar Plants:

This Cosmopolitan butterfly enjoys aster (Aster), cosmos (Cosmos), thistle (Cirsium), buttonbush (Cephalanthus) and a host of other nectar rich blooms.

Painted Lady and Other Butterflies

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