A Painted Lady Butterfly Is a Flying Work of Art
Learn how to attract and identify a painted lady butterfly and caterpillar. Find out what they eat and what host plants you should grow.
How to Identify a Painted Lady Butterfly
A painted lady butterfly has an orange and black patterned upper wing with white dots and four or five black dots along each hindwing. Underwings have a dark brown and tan segmented design with four or five dots on the hindwing’s edge. Their wingspan is 2 to 2 7/8 inches.
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Painted Lady Habitat
You can spot a painted lady butterfly in nearly every habitat, but they prefer open grassy areas, gardens and fields. Painted ladies live on every continent except Australia and Antarctica, and many oceanic islands. They are among the most widespread butterflies in the world!
Painted Lady Butterflies’ Host Plants
This butterfly uses a variety of host plants (more than 100!), but prefers thistle, hollyhock, mallow and many legumes.
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What Does a Painted Lady Butterfly Eat?
You may see them sipping nectar from thistle, aster, cosmos, ironweed and blazing star. Check out more summer nectar flowers that attract butterflies, and discover how to attract butterflies in 9 easy ways.
Painted Lady Caterpillar
Painted lady caterpillars are gray-brown or almost black with a yellow stripe down their bodies and spikes along their sides and backs. They show some color variation when in caterpillar stage. Before the pupae stage, look for caterpillars creating silk tents on thistle, one of their favorite host plants.
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Painted Lady Flight Facts
Courtesy Andrea Petersen
- Painted ladies can fly at speeds close to 30 miles per hour and cover up to 100 miles in a day.
- These butterflies have been found at altitudes as high as 22,000 feet, the highest of any butterfly species.
- European painted ladies migrate to Africa in fall, crossing the Mediterranean and often continuing across the Sahara Desert. Their offspring then return north to Europe in spring. Here’s how to help painted lady butterflies on their migration journey.
Next, meet garden royalty: the viceroy butterfly