Painted Lady Butterfly

(Vanessa cardui)

Painted Lady on display in the Bermuda Natural History Museum


The Painted Lady Butterfly is orange-brown with darker wing bases. The forewing has a black apex patch and white bar on leading edge. The hindwing is orange with a submarginal row of 5 black spots and sometimes blue scales. The underside has a black, brown, and gray pattern with 4 small submarginal eyespots. The wingspan of the Painted Lady is 2 to 2 7/8 inches (5.1 - 7.3 cm).

The caterpillars are more difficult to identify, since their appearance changes with each growth stage (instar). The early instars appear worm-like, with light gray bodies and a darker, bulbous head. As they mature, the larvae develop spines, with a dark body mottled with white and orange markings. The final instar retains the spines, but has a lighter color. The first few instars live in a silken web on a leaf of the host plant.


 The Painted Lady Butterfly can be found in virtually habitat.


The caterpillar prefers thistle as its main host plant, but will also eat mallow and legumes. The Painted Lady butterfly prefers nectar from thistles, aster, cosmos, privet, and milkweeds. 

Life Cycle

The males perch and patrol during the afternoon for receptive females. Females lay eggs singly on the tops of host plant leaves.  Caterpillars build a webbed nest and feed on thistles, while the butterfly feeds from a variety of plants.


An occasional visitor to Bermuda. To attract the Painted Lady butterfly to the garden plant Thistles, Milkweed and Privet.