New Jersey Butterflies

Painted Lady

Vanessa cardui

Identification: Medium—2.2" (slightly larger than American Lady). Above: FW and HW orange and black with a few white spots in black FW apex. Best told from American Lady by connected black marks on inner FW forming an arc that encloses orange. Also lacks the small white spot in orange square along mid-FW usually seen in American Lady. Below: HW mottled dark and light brown and white, with 4 blue-centered eyespots along wing margin; lacks pale band across midwing seen in American Lady, which has 2 much larger eyespots.

NJ Status and Distribution: Nonresident. Each year irrupts northward from Mexico in spring to repopulate the U.S. and Canada.

NJ Range Map-Painted Lady

Habitat: Open, sunny, fields and wet meadows. Easily attracted to gardens with flowers such as milkweed, Butterfly Bush, Purple Coneflower, Mistflower, sedum, and asters.

Flight Period: Early April into December but mainly June to October. Extreme dates: North Jersey 4/5—12/22; South Jersey 4/8—12/18.

Larval Food Plants: Mainly thistles (Carduus and Cirsium).

Overwintering Stage: Does not overwinter in NJ.

Best Locations: Any open areas during irruptions.

Comments: Can be super-abundant some years in western states.



Painted Lady

Cape May Pt., Cape May Co., NJ, 9/13/12.


Painted Lady

Wildcat Ridge WMA, Morris Co., NJ, 6/27/12, on Crown Vetch.


Painted Lady

Swamp Thistle (Cirsium muticum). This is one of many species of host plants (including other species of thistles) in several families used by Painted Lady.