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Butterfly taxonomy (classification) The skippers The swallowtails The whites The hairstreaks, coppers and blues. Includes the Duke of Burgundy. The nymphalids, fritillaries and browns. Includes the Monarch.
Painted-Lady- 5D30342 Lincs 18 Aug 2013
Wingspan
Male: 58 - 70mm
Female: 62 - 74mm
Photo © IainLeach
Painted Lady

Vanessa cardui
Number: 59.024
B&F No.: 1591
Family:Nymphalidae (Swainson, 1827)
Subfamily:Nymphalinae (Swainson, 1827)
Tribe:Nymphalini (Swainson, 1827)
Genus:Vanessa (Fabricius, 1807)
Subgenus: 
Species:cardui (Linnaeus, 1758)
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  Introduction  

This species is a migrant to our shores and, in some years, the migration can be spectacular. The most-recent spectacle, in 2009, is considered to be one of the greatest migrations ever, with sightings from all over the British Isles that are definitely on a par with previous cardui years.

This species originates from north Africa, and it has been suggested that the urge to migrate is triggered when an individual encounters a certain density of its own kind within a given area. This theory makes perfect sense, since this species can occur in high densities that result in foodplants being stripped bare on occasion with many larvae perishing as a result.

Unfortunately, this species is unable to survive our winter in any stage. This is a real shame, for not only does this species often arrive in large numbers, but is a welcome sight as it nectars in gardens throughout the British Isles in late summer. This butterfly has a strong flight and can be found anywhere in the British Isles, including Orkney and Shetland. An interesting fact is that this butterfly is the only butterfly species ever to have been recorded from Iceland.

Vanessa cardui

This species was first defined in Linnaeus (1758) as shown here (type locality: Europe, Africa).


Painted Lady - Rackham Gulley, Sussex 4-Aug-2013
Male
Photo © Neil Hulme
Painted-Lady- 5D34781 Lincs 18 Aug 2013
Male Underside
Photo © IainLeach
Painted Lady  (Reared - Freshly Hatched) Caterham, Surrey 28-July-09
Female
Photo © Vince Massimo
Painted Lady, Steyning, 17/08/2012
Female Underside
Photo © Pauline

  Phenology  

Adults are first seen in late March as they start to arrive on our shores and numbers build up in May and June as further migrants arrive from the continent. These breed and give rise to the next generation that peaks in early August. There may be more than one brood in the British Isles each year - depending largely on the weather.

This butterfly is continuously brooded on the continent, which may be the cause of its ultimate demise in the British Isles, since it seems unable to survive our winter in any stage. However, it is thought that some individuals may make an attempt at a return migration in autumn.


The chart(s) above have been correlated with the phenology plot below, taken from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. The blue line gives average counts over the full data set from 1976 to date, and the red line gives the average for the last year.


  Habitat  

This butterfly can be found almost anywhere, from the seashore and town gardens, to the tops of the highest mountains. This is one of the few species that can breed in intensive farmland since even these sites typically contain a patch of Thistles, the primary foodplant of this species.

  Larval Foodplants  

The primary larval foodplant is Thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.). Common Nettle (Urtica dioica), Mallows (various) (Malva spp.) and Viper's-bugloss (Echium vulgare) are also used.

  Nectar Sources  

Adults feed primarily on Thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.). Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), Bugle (Ajuga reptans), Carline Thistle (Carlina vulgaris), Hawkweeds (Hieracium/Hypochoeris), Heather (Calluna vulgaris / Erica spp.), Ivy (Hedera helix), Knapweeds (Centaurea spp.), Privet (Ligustrum vulgare), Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) and Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) are also used.

  Imago  

A newly-emerged adult is flushed with a beautiful salmon-pink and is a most-beautiful insect. This colouring, however, fades rapidly with the passage of time - adults not only appear drab, but are occasionally missing various pieces of their wings, especially the apex of their forewings, no doubt the result of nectaring on plants such as Thistles and Brambles.


Painted Lady  (Reared - Freshly Hatched) Caterham, Surrey 28-July-09
Photo © Vince Massimo
28-Jul-2009
Painted Lady - imago - Sarnano, Italy - 18-Jun-08 (1)
Photo © Pete Eeles
18-Jun-2008
Painted Lady [Nick Sampford]
Photo © Nick Sampford
06-Jul-2003
Painted Lady
Photo © Gruditch
13-Jul-2008
Painted Lady - Danebury - 26-7-09
Photo © Gwenhwyfar
26-Jul-2009
Painted Lady - Danebury - 15-8-09
Photo © Gwenhwyfar
15-Aug-2009
Painted Lady - Magdalen Hill Down - 11 Aug 2009
Photo © Clive
11-Aug-2009
Painted Lady (Reared and Freshly Hatched) - Caterham, Surrey 17-Nov-09
Photo © Vince Massimo
17-Nov-2009
Painted Lady (Reared - Freshly Hatched) - Caterham, Surrey 25-July-09
Photo © Vince Massimo
25-Jul-2009
Painted Lady - Imago - Brampton Wood, CAMBS - 20-09-09
Photo © Trev Sawyer
Painted Lady, Kithurst Hill (13 September 2011)
Photo © Mark Colvin
13-Sep-2011
Painted Lady Feeding - Rothbury, Northumberland - 26th September 2009
Photo © Graham Beckwith
26-Sep-2009
Painted Lady, Steyning, 17/08/2012
Photo © Pauline
18-Aug-2012
Painted Lady, Steyning, 17/08/2012
Photo © Pauline
18-Aug-2012
Painted Lady  Butterfly World, St. Albans, Herts  18th July 2009
Photo © millerd
18-Jul-2009
Painted Lady - Five Rivers - 26 August 2012
Photo © Wurzel
26-Aug-2012
Painted Lady, West Sussex (10 September 2012)
Photo © Mark Colvin
10-Sep-2012
Painted Lady  Knoll Bay, Studland, Dorset  1st September 2012
Photo © millerd
01-Sep-2012
Painted Lady, Botany Bay, 04/08/2013
Photo © Pauline
04-Aug-2013
Painted Lady - Rackham Gulley, Sussex 4-Aug-2013
Photo © Neil Hulme
04-Aug-2013
Male and Female Painted Lady - Wolstonbury Hill, Sussex 8-Aug-2103 [Richard Roebuck]
Photo © Richard Roebuck
08-Aug-2013
Painted Lady. Ashdown Forest. 8/8/2013.
Photo © badgerbob
08-Aug-2013
Painted-Lady- 5D37374 Lincs 18 Aug 2013
Photo © IainLeach
Painted-Lady- 5D34781 Lincs 18 Aug 2013
Photo © IainLeach
Painted-Lady- 5D30342 Lincs 18 Aug 2013
Photo © IainLeach
Painted-Lady- 5D30094 Lincs 18 Aug 2013
Photo © IainLeach
Painted Lady - Alpes-Maritimes - 7 June 2014
Photo © CFB
07-Jun-2014

  Aberrations  

Description to be completed.

Unclassified Aberrations


Painted Lady - imago - East Lulworth - 22-Sep-12
Photo © Pete Eeles
Painted Lady, aberration rogeri, Purbeck, Dorset, July 15th 2014.
Photo © False Apollo
Painted Lady, aberration rogeri, Purbeck, Dorset, July 15th 2014.
Photo © False Apollo
Painted Lady, aberration rogeri, underside. Purbeck, Dorset, July 15th 2014.
Photo © False Apollo
Painted Lady, aberration rogeri, Purbeck, Dorset, July 15th 2014.
Photo © False Apollo

  Ovum  

Eggs are laid singly on a leaf of the foodplant, usually on the leaf upperside. They are light green when first laid but turn grey before hatching. This stage lasts just over a week.


Painted Lady - ovum - Unknown location - 2004 [REARED] [Reg Fry]
Photo © Reg Fry

  Larva  

On emerging from the egg, the larva moves to the underside of the leaf to feed on the cuticle. This leaves a transparent patch when looked on from above, and the young larva can be quite easy to find as a result. As the larva grows, it builds a silk tent around one or more leaves from which it feeds. This makes them very easy to find in the wild but difficult, no doubt, for a predator to penetrate. As the larva continues to grow, it builds successively larger tents, providing tell-tale clues of its presence to the trained eye.

Larvae seldom leave their original plant and, if several eggs are laid on the same plant, this can lead to starvation as the number of larvae outstrips the available food source. Larvae need good periods of warmth to reach the pupal stage and perish in prolonged periods of cold and damp. There are 4 moults in total.


Painted Lady Larva - Bentley wood - 3-7-09
Photo © Gwenhwyfar
03-Jul-2009
Painted Lady Larva - Bentley Wood - 27-6-09
Photo © Gwenhwyfar
27-Jun-2009
Painted Lady - larva - Pamber Forest - 19-Jul-03
Photo © Pete Eeles
Painted Lady - larva - Bentley Wood - 03-Jul-09 (1)
Photo © Pete Eeles
03-Jul-2009
Painted Lady - larva - Bentley Wood - 03-Jul-09 (2)
Photo © Pete Eeles
03-Jul-2009
Painted Lady - larva - Bentley Wood - 03-Jul-09 (3)
Photo © Pete Eeles
03-Jul-2009
Painted Lady - larva - Bentley Wood - 03-Jul-09 (4)
Photo © Pete Eeles
03-Jul-2009
Painted Lady - larva - Forton, Somerset 23 July 09 [Adrian Dexter]
Photo © Adrian Dexter
23-Jul-2009
Painted Lady (2nd instar larva) - Caterham, Surrey 26-June-09
Photo © Vince Massimo
26-Jun-2009
Painted Lady (2nd instar larva) - Caterham, Surrey 3-July-09
Photo © Vince Massimo
03-Jul-2009
Painted Lady (2nd instar larva) - Caterham, Surrey 3-July-09
Photo © Vince Massimo
03-Jul-2009
Painted Lady caterpillar, Malaga, Spain - March 2013
Photo © Padfield
Probably an early 4th instar on Borage
25-Mar-2013
Painted Lady (2nd instar larva) - Caterham, Surrey 4-July-09
Photo © Vince Massimo
04-Jul-2009
Painted Lady larva - Caterham, Surrey 30-June-09
Photo © Vince Massimo
30-Jun-2009
Painted Lady larva (coloured form) - Caterham, Surrey 5-July-09
Photo © Vince Massimo
05-Jul-2009

  Pupa  

The pupa is formed in a tent of vegetation, using either the foodplant or some other convenient shrub, loosely spun together with silk. The pupa is hung upside down within the tent, attached by the cremaster. This stages lasts around a fortnight.


Painted Lady Pupa (Dark Form), Caterham, Surrey 12-July-09
Photo © Vince Massimo
12-Jul-2009
Painted Lady Pupa (Pale Form), Caterham, Surrey 15-July-09
Photo © Vince Massimo
15-Jul-2009
Painted Lady - pupa - Thatcham - 31-Jul-03 (3)
Photo © Pete Eeles
Painted Lady-pupa-Prestatyn-July,2009.
Photo © Ray
Painted Lady - pupa - Thatcham - 19-Jul-09 (1) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
19-Jul-2009
Painted Lady Pupa - Caterham, Surrey 5-Nov-09
Photo © Vince Massimo
05-Nov-2009
Painted Lady Pupa (2 hours before hatching) - Caterham, Surrey 17-Nov-09
Photo © Vince Massimo
17-Nov-2009

  Similar Species  

American Painted Lady

Description to be completed.

  Videos  

Video © John Chapple
Painted Lady.

  Sites  

Click here to see the distribution of this species overlaid with specific site information. Alternatively, select one of the sites listed below.

Sites
Arthur's Seat, Bedfont Lakes Country Park LNR, Broughton Down, Bryncelyn Hall, Cuerden Valley Park, Darley, Fleam Dyke, Howardian Local Nature Reserve, Hyde, Kirkcaldy, Latton Woods, Linn Dean, Mayford Pond, Moss Field, Old Down, Basingstoke, Roudsea Wood NNR, Strumpshaw Fen, Tophill Low, Uffmoor Wood, Winsdon Hill

  Conservation Status  

Long term distribution and population trends both show an increase. Since the presence of this species in the British isles is wholly dependent on immigrants from the continent, this species is not a conservation concern.

UK BAP StatusDistribution TrendPopulation Trend
Not ListedIncreaseLarge Increase

From The State of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland and the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) (2007 review).


  Links  

The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.

  References  

The species description provided here references the following publications:

ReferenceDetails
Linnaeus (1758) Linnaeus, C.: Systema Naturae. Edn.10. 1758.

  Copyright © Peter Eeles 2002-2014
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