Painted Lady | Butterfly of the Month

Painted lady Butterfly

Vanessa cardui

Painted Lady Butterfly

"Nearly everybody has heard of the amazing migrations of the Monarch butterflies. But there is another butterfly that is a phenomenal migrator – Painted Lady butterflies. Painted Lady butterflies are found throughout the world. In the Western U.S. they begin their migration in the Southwest and can fly as fast as 30 mph at 6-12 feet above ground traveling up to 100 miles per day, thus they can reach more northern areas well ahead of Monarchs. I have seen Painted Lady butterflies migrating through the Sinlahekin and Chiliwist Wildlife Areas and they definitely look like they are on a mission! I found them very difficult to capture as they seemed to rarely land and only momentarily.

Their migration and numbers observed in their northern range seems to be tied, to some degree, to large population emergence/explosion in the southwest based on rainfall and good growing conditions for vegetation. Mass migrations of Painted Lady butterflies have been so thick that they literally cover windshields of cars driving through them. In fact, Interstate 5 (I-5) in Southern California was closed in 1992 due to the abundance of butterflies creating dangerous driving conditions."

"Thistles are the larval plant host of Painted Lady butterflies, in particular the caterpillars use the native “wavy-leaf thistle”, but will use non-native thistles as well. They nectar on dandelion, rabbitbrush, Canada thistle, osier dogwood, and chokecherry - to name a few plants.

Painted Lady butterflies do not overwinter in the Okanogan or anywhere it freezes."

~ Dale Swedberg | Local Naturalist & Retired Sinlahekin Wildlife Area Manager

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