Painted Lady Vanessa cardui


The Painted Lady is found in any habitat, but open ground with an abundance of thistles is favoured. It is a familiar visitor to gardens. It is a migatory butterfly coming to Britain from Europe and North Africa. Numbers vary from year to year, but occasionally there are mass migrations, as in 2009.


The Painted Lady is an easy butterfly to identify due to its distinctive patterning. Fresh individuals have a salmon-pink flush which fades to pale orange with age.

Flight times

The Painted Lady has been recorded during every month of the year, but the first arrivals are usually seen in late March. These breed and give rise to a late summer generation. Peak numbers are reached in August and there appears to be an occasional return southerly migration in September/October.

Food plants

Eggs are laid singly on various species of thistle.

Painted Lady
Painted Lady - © Simon Jenkins.

Distribution Maps

Painted Lady distribution map 2005-09
Painted Lady distribution map 2010-14
Painted Lady distribution map 2015-19
Painted Lady distribution map 2015
2015 Summary
No of tetrads 505
First sighting 07/04/2015
Last sighting 30/10/2015
Painted Lady distribution map 2016
2016 Summary
No of tetrads 439
First sighting 09/03/2016
Last sighting 31/10/2016
Painted Lady distribution map 2017
2017 Summary
No of tetrads 435
First sighting 24/03/2017
Last sighting 24/10/2017
Painted Lady distribution map 2018
2018 Summary
No of tetrads 498
First sighting 20/01/2018
Last sighting 21/10/2018
Painted Lady distribution map 2019
2019 Summary
No of tetrads 1067
First sighting 02/03/2019
Last sighting 22/10/2019
Painted Lady distribution map 2020
2020 Summary
No of tetrads 354
First sighting 16/03/2020
Last sighting 14/10/2020
Painted Lady distribution map 2021
2021 Summary
No of tetrads 437
First sighting 04/04/2021
Last sighting 08/11/2021

Photo Gallery