Description: The familiar Painted Lady is raised from caterpillar to butterfly by thousands of school children every year. Males and females have boldly patterned black wings with bright orange stripes and markings toward the body, and white markings toward the ends of the wings. The hindwing has a row of five black spots. The body is brown. In North America, the Painted Lady is often called the Cosmopolite or the Thistle Butterfly. The Painted Lady has a wingspan of about 8 centimeters (nearly three inches).
Range: The Painted Lady is found throughout the world’s temperate zones (and some tropical zones), in every continent except Australia and Antarctica. It may be the most widespread butterfly in the world. They can be found in virtually any habitats, but are especially numerous in flowery mountain meadows. They migrate from the south to the north in late spring and may be present in most areas from March to October. In desert climates, they may persist year-round.
Life Cycle: Female Painted Ladies lay tiny pale-green eggs on thistle, mallow, or hollyhock leaves. When the larva hatches they immediately begin feeding for five to ten days before pupating (forming chrysalis). The larva (caterpillar) quickly grows and turns a blackish color with long spines on its body. During this time it progresses through four instars (periods of time between moltings). The larva will soon become less active and hang upside down in a “J” formation from a twig or branch, attached by a silken string. A green chrysalis will form around the caterpillar. In seven to ten days metamorphosis will become complete and the butterfly emerges. Upon its emergence, the butterfly will remain still while blood pumps to its newly formed wings. In a few hours, it will gain the ability to fly. After emerging from the chrysalis, the butterfly has a life span of about two weeks, during which it will feed on the nectar of several kinds of flowers including cosmos, blazing star, ironweed, thistle and clover before mating. Three or four generations (flights) of Painted Ladies may be produced in a single year.