Painted Lady Butterfly – Vanessa cardui
Painted Lady butterflies are medium size, approximately 2 to 2 1/2 inches from wing tip to wing tip. Their larval food plant list is longer than most butterflies. They commonly use some species of thistle as their primary host. They also lay eggs on hollyhock, mallow, and plantain (Plantago species, not the banana plantain).
If the adults were raised on plants, their eggs will be green. If the adults were raised on instant diet, their eggs will be blue.
This species is commonly used for kits and schools because a perfect instant diet is available for them. Unlike most butterfly species, one is not required to have host plants to feed caterpillars.
Like the other Vanessa butterflies, Red Admiral, American Lady, West Coast Lady, and more, they hang in a J before pupating.
After emerging and pumping their wings full of hemolymph, they will expel meconium. Painted Lady meconium is red and many people assume it is blood and that the butterfly was harmed. Not so; butterfly blood is yellow/green. It is essential that the adult butterflies expel this fluid from their digestive systems before beginning their active adult life, drinking nectar, pairing, and laying eggs.
Males court females so successfully that, when raising them indoors, females normally lay hundreds of fertile eggs. Many people raise several generations of Painted Lady butterflies for their own enjoyment.
Painted Lady butterflies are found in all 48 contiguous states.