Painted Lady  
Description  2-2 1/4"  FW tip extended
slightly, rounded. Above, salmon-orange with
black blotches, black-patterned margins, and
broadly black FW tips with clear white spots;
outer HW crossed by small black-rimmed
blue spots.

Below, FW dominantly rose-pink with olive,
black, and white pattern; HW has small blue
spots on olive background with white
webwork. FW above and below has white bar
running from costa across black patch near tip.

Life Cycle  Egg pale green, barrel-shaped;
laid singly. Caterpillar, to 1 1/4", varies from
chartreuse with black marbling to purplish
with yellow back stripe; has short spines.
Chrysalis, to 7/8", lavender-brown, bumpy,
bluntly beaked; hangs upside down.

Preferred host plant is thistle but also feeds
on great array of other composites  and
mallows.

Flight  2 or more broods; all year in
southern deserts, April-June until hard frosts
in North.

Habitat  Anywhere, especially flowery
meadows, parks, and mountaintops.

Range  All of North America well into
sub-Arctic, and south to Panama; naturalized
in Hawaii.

Discussion  This species deserves its
alternate name, "Cosmopolite." Despite its
inability to overwinter in any stage above a
certain undetermined latitude, the Painted
Lady is perhaps the most widespread butterfly
in the world, found throughout Africa, Europe,
Asia and many islands, as well as in North
America.

Most of North America is devoid of Painted
Ladies between the first heavy frosts and the
onset of spring, although they occur
year-round in the Sonoran deserts and
perhaps other warm regions. In February and
March, Painted Ladies begin infiltrating the
North and East from the Southwest, and by
late spring, they have recolonized the
continent.

The number of immigrants fluctuates greatly
from one year to the next. Several
mechanisms have been proposed to explain
the variance: cycles of parasite attack, host
plant defoliation, and superabundance of
nectar following heavy winter rains. Unlike the
Monarch's annual round-trip outings, the
movements of the Painted Lady are
essentially one-way.
This friendly butterfly happily drank water from the bricks I had just hosed down.  She was content for
several minutes sitting and drinking while I snapped her picture.
June 2005