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Painted Lady Butterfly

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me... Nine ladies dancing...

Vanessa cardui
Meet the Painted Lady, one of the most widespread Butterflies on the entire planet! They can be found living in temperate areas of just about every continent (except South America and Antarctica... though Antarctica isn't temperate anyway)

Painted Lady Butterflies live their lives in four stages. They start as eggs, which are laid on thistle leaves and hatch after 3-5 days. Then they live for another week or so as a spiny black Caterpillar that eats the thistle leaves that they were laid on. After that they pupate for up to 10 days before turning into an adult. The Butterfly can fly only a few hours after emerging with their fancy new wings.

Over the course of their lifetime, a Painted Lady Butterfly may travel up to 1,000 miles! This is pretty amazing when you realize that they are only adults for a couple of weeks at best. It can take multiple generations to make the full trip between migration points. In some years the migrations have been larger and more populous than others. Back in 1973, the larvae from the Painted Ladies were so abundant in Orange County, California, that exterminators had to come in due to infestation!

Painted Ladies are very popular classroom "pets." They are often raised in classrooms, as their 3 week lifecycle  makes for a great visual lesson plan on the stages of metamorphosis.

IUCN Status : Not Listed
Location : Worldwide, except South America and Antartica
Size : Wingspan 3.5in (9cm)
Classification : Phylum : Arthropoda -- Class : Insecta -- Order  Lepidoptera
Family : Nymphalidae -- Genus : Vanessa -- Species : V. cardui


  1. I love taking photos (or trying to) of butterflies in my area. I encounter this species more often than any other, and so I have managed to get quite a few decent shots of them. I new they were common around here (New England), but I had no idea how widespread they were around the globe. Thanks for the post!


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