They are part of the Nymphalidae family or the brush-footed butterflies. They belong to Genus Vanessa and species cardui. Thus, scientifically, painted lady butterflies are called Vanessa curdui. Vanessa curdui is commonly known as the thistle butterfly because adults sip thistle nectar. Another common name is cosmopolite or cosmopolitan because of its wide distribution around the world. It lives all-year round in tropical temperature, usually in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa, but not in Australia and Antarctica (Painted Lady, 2010).
They do not survive in colder areas but they seldom travel south because of overpopulation. Painted Ladies are smaller than other brush-footed butterflies like the monarchs. They reach 5-6 centimeters in width (from 2 2 7/8 inches or 5. 1 7. 3 cm wingspan) (Hadley, 1991). The Life Cycle of a Painted Lady Butterfly Painted Lady butterfly, like all other butterflies, undergo a process called complete metamorphosis consists of four stages. The first stage begins with mint green, barrel-shaped eggs, usually the size of a pin head, laid singly on the leaves of host plants, and hatch in 3-5 days.
Inside each egg is a yellow-striped, brown-green spiny caterpillar which builds a silky, webbed nest, usually in thistle. The second stage is when the egg becomes a larva. The caterpillar starts to eat using its strong jaws to help its skin get tighter. This tight skin will soon be shed and a new skin emerges, in a process called instar. The caterpillar has five instars over 12-18 days until the caterpillar is full grown usually almost 2 inches long. Painted Lady caterpillars change their appearance with each instars. This is the stage in the life cycle of an insect between two successive molts.
(Hadley, 1991)They appear worm-like, with light gray bodies and a darker, bulbous head in early instars but as they mature, they develop noticeable spines with a dark body mottled with white and orange markings. The final instar retains the spines but has a lighter color. The third stage is when metamorphosis begins. At this stage, the caterpillar rests in a pupa up to 10 days. The caterpillar starts to spin a silk pad using the silk thread that comes out of a hole just below its mouth (spinneret). In this pad, the caterpillar hangs itself.
After some time the skin of the caterpillar split open from the head to abdomen revealing a shiny green case underneath called the chrysalis. Inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar becomes liquid reforming itself into a butterfly. From inside, it pushes itself and slowly struggles out, until the case splits open and emerges as a butterfly. The fourth and the final stage is when the adult butterfly comes out. This happens usually on the second to third week. Butterfly wings are soft and crumpled on its first appearance from the chrysalis. After emerging, it rests first before it unfolds its wings.
After a few hours, it is ready to fly. The Painted Lady Butterflys lifespan is only two weeks so it must reproduce and lay eggs during that period to continue the cycle (Life cycle, 2010). Diet, Habitation and Special Adaptation and Defense The Painted Lady strives on nectars of many plants, especially the composite flowers of the Asteraceae plant family. A variety of hosts plants are good source of the Painted Ladys favorite diet. Caterpillars feed particularly on thistle, mallow, and hollyhock while adult butterflies feed on thistle, aster, cosmos, blazing star, and ironweed.
Like other living organisms, Painted Lady butterflies have special adaptations and defenses. The small caterpillars hide in their silk nests while the colored spots in the adult butterflys wings serve as their best defense against predators because they look very similar to military camouflage. The Painted Lady enjoys open meadows and fields even in disturbed areas and roadsides. Generally, they inhabit in sunny places where they can find hosts plants and enjoy their favorite nectars (Hadley, 1991).
This species is so quick and easy to rear that is why it is a familiar display in exhibits and projects. References Hadley, D. (1991). Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui). Retrieved 2010, March 25, from About. com website: http://insects. about. com/od/butterfliesmoths/p/Vcardui. htm Life cycle of a Butterfly. (n. d. ) Retrieved March 26, 2010, from Earthsbirthday,org website: http://www. earthsbirthday. org/butterflies/butterfly-lifecycle Painted Lady. (n. d. ). Retrieved March 24, 2010, from Insectlore. com website: http://www. insectlore. com/xlorepedia_stuff/painted_lady. html