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Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

In Britain, one or more generations may be produced during a single year, depending on the climate (2). The female lays eggs singly on the upperside of leaves of the foodplants (3). The eggs hatch after around a week, and the caterpillars create a tent-like shelter of leaves spun together with silk, within which feeding takes place. They pupate inside these shelters, and the adults emerge after around two weeks (3). In 1997 it was first shown that adults are able to overwinter in Britain, although it is not known if adults are capable of breeding after overwintering (2). There is currently no evidence to suggest that this species migrates south at the end of the season (2). In some years, the migration of this species involves enormous numbers of individuals; in 1996, many millions of painted ladies arrived in Britain, and the event made the headlines at the time (2).
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North American Ecology (US and Canada)

Vanessa cardui, the painted lady, is resident to southern California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, south to Venezuela, the Bahamas and Antilles. It is the most widely distributed butterfly in the world, occurring also in Eruasia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere (Scott 1986). Hightly migratory, it migrates throughout the North America. Habitats are everywhere, mostly in open or disturbed areas. Host plants are mostly herbaceous, but rarely shrubs or trees, and include species from many families, especially preferring Compositae, and sometimes is a pest on Iowa soybeans (Leguminosae). Eggs are laid on the host plant singly. Individuals overwinter as adults, but only in mild winters or in the south. There are multiple flights all year in south Texas, Florida and California, with migrations many thousands of kilometers between spring to fall (Scott 1986).
  • Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press.
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Introduction

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Description

The beautiful painted lady butterfly is a long-distance migratory species, and is easily recognised by its orange and black patterns and white spots (1). The caterpillar reaches 2.8 cm in length, has a black body with white dots, yellowish-black spines, and a yellow line along each side (3).
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Comprehensive Description

General Description

There are two other similar Vanessa; the first, V. virginiensis, occurs only very rarely as a migrant in Alberta, and the Painted Lady can immediately be distinguished from virginiensis by the row of three to four smaller eyespots on the hindwing underside; virginiensis has only two, much larger spots. Compared to the West Coast Lady (V. annabella), cardui has a large white spot two-thirds up the leading edge of the forewing, which is orange in annabella; cardui is also larger.
Royal Alberta Museum page
 There are no named subspecies.
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Summary

"Vanessa cardui, also called the Painted Lady or the Cosmopolitan(in North America), is a popular colourful butterfly species that shows a characteristic strange screw shaped flight pattern."
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Description

Size: 54-58 mm. Unmistakable.The forewings are brown. On the wing leading edge there is a big white spot. The wing is black and there is a chain of little white spots. There is a chain of big, black spots on the wing. The underside is a copy from upside, but there are some differences. The wing is grey. Nearby the body there is a pink area. The hind wings are brown. At the margin there are three chains of black spots. In the middle of the wing there is a black spot. The underside is brown and marmorate. At the margin there is a chain of little eyes. The body is brown. Sex differences: None. The caterpillar reaches 2.8 cm in length, has a black body with white dots, yellowish-black spines, and a yellow line along each side .

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Distribution

This butterfly is more widespread tha nany other species in the world; although it does not tolerate hard winter forsts, migrants have been found on every continent save Antarctica; recorded as far north as northern Greenland (Scott 1986).
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Geographic Range

This is one of the most common butterfly species in the world. The only places it doesn't live are on Antarctica and some remote islands. It even migrates to Hawaii and Iceland!

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native ); ethiopian (Native ); neotropical (Native ); australian (Native ); oceanic islands (Native )

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Geographic Range

The Painted Lady is found everywhere in the world except South America, the Arctic, and Australia.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native ); ethiopian (Native ); neotropical (Native ); australian (Native ); oceanic islands (Native )

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Records

102 records. Latest in 2007 (St Katherine)

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Distribution in Egypt

Widespread

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Global Distribution

Widespread (Holarctic). everywhere in the world except South America, the Arctic, and Australia.

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occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Breeding

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) Holarctic: in North America, Panama north to the southern United States. Migrates north to sub-Arctic North America, but dies off in winter. Established virtually worldwide; the most widespread species of butterfly in the world.

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Range

Every year this species migrates northwards from 'source populations' in North Africa, central Asia and the Middle East to Europe, including Britain and Ireland, where it breeds. Numbers peak in late summer. This species has a worldwide distribution, but is absent from South America. Some authorities claim that the race found in Australia is a separate species (2).
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Physical Description

Morphology

"In both sexes, uppersides are reddish yellow with dark brown markings, apical area of forewing with a short post-discal white bar from costa and a pre-apical series of white spots. Hind wing with a series of post-discal dark brown spots and a sub-terminal series of spots, the apices of the veins bearing a dark spot. Fringe of wings white. Under-side: Forewing: as on upperside but paler, the terminal border with white lines. Hind wing: much mottled with dark brown and yellowish white, a post-discal series of black-ringed ocelli with bluish centres, the ocellus in interspace 2 the largest, the terminal border with a yellowish line. Markings very variable."
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Physical Description

Eggs are pale green, placed one by one on the uppersides of leaves. The caterpillars vary in color, they are grayish-brown or darker, and darker at each end than in the middle. They have a yellow stripe down the back and along each side, and many spines on their back and sides. The pupa can also be different colors, metallic-greenish, or bluish-white, or brown. Adult Painted Lady Butterflies have speckled wings with brown, black, red and white markings. The upper side has more red and sometimes pink or orange, the underside is more brown and black. The forewings have a white bar, and the hindwing has a row of 5 tiny black dots. When the wings are folded, they appear camouflaged.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

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Physical Description

The Painted Lady has a pointed forewing which bears a distinct white bar. The hindwing has a submarginal row of 5 tiny black dots. The upperside of the freshly emerged butterfly is orange with rose-like overtones. The underside is a mottled gray, brown, and black.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

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Size

55-70 mm
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Ecology

Habitat

A migrant that can be found in almost any habitat in years that it is common.
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Mojave Desert Habitat

This taxon is found in the Mojave Desert, the smallest of the four North American deserts. While the Mojave lies between the Great Basin Shrub Steppe and the Sonoran Desert, its fauna is more closely allied with the lower Colorado division of the Sonoran Desert. Dominant plants of the Mojave include Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata), Many-fruit Saltbush (Atriplex polycarpa), Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa), Desert Holly (Atriplex hymenelytra), White Burrobush (Hymenoclea salsola), and Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia), the most notable endemic species in the region.

The Mojave’s warm temperate climate defines it as a distinct ecoregion. Mojave indicator species include Spiny Menodora (Menodora spinescens), Desert Senna (Cassia armata), Mojave Indigobush (Psorothamnus arborescens), and Shockley's Goldenhead (Acamptopappus shockleyi). The Mojave supports numerous species of cacti, including several endemics, such as Silver Cholla (Opuntia echinocarpa), Mojave Prickly Pear (O. erinacea), Beavertail Cactus (O. basilaris), and Cotton-top Cactus (Echinocactus polycephalus).

While the Mojave Desert is not so biologically distinct as the other desert ecoregions, distinctive endemic communities occur throughout. For example, the Kelso Dunes in the Mojave National Preserve harbor seven species of endemic insects, including the Kelso Dunes Jerusalem Cricket (Ammopelmatus kelsoensis) and the Kelso Dunes Shieldback Katydid (Eremopedes kelsoensis). The Mojave Fringe-toed Lizard (Uma Scoparia), while not endemic to the dunes, is rare elsewhere. Flowering plants also attract butterflies such as the Mojave Sooty-wing (Pholisora libya), and the widely distributed Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui).

There are a total of eight amphibian species present in the Mojave Desert all of which are anuran species: the endemic Relict Leopard Frog (Lithobates onca); the endemic Amargosa Toad (Anaxyrus nelsoni); Lowland Leopard Frog (Lithobates yavapaiensis); Red-spotted Toad (Anaxyrus punctatus); Southwestern Toad (Anaxyrus microscaphus); Great Basin Spadefoot (Spea intermontana); Great Plains Toad (Anaxyrus cognatus); and the Pacific Treefrog (Pseudacris regilla).

The native range of California’s threatened Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) includes the Mojave and Colorado Deserts. The Desert Tortoise has adapted for arid habitats by storing up to a liter of water in its urinary bladder. The following reptilian fauna are characteristic of the Mojave region in particular: Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum NT); Western Banded Gecko (Coleonyx variegatus), Northern Desert Iguana (Dipsosaurus dorsalis), Western Chuckwalla (Sauromalus obesus), and regal horned lizard (Phrynosoma solare). Snake species include the Desert Rosy Boa (Charina trivirgata gracia), Mojave Patchnose Snake (Salvadora hexalepis mojavensis), and Mojave Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus).

Endemic mammals of the ecoregion include the Mojave Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus mohavensis) and Amargosa Vole (Microtus californicus scirpensis); and the California Leaf-nosed Bat (Macrotus californicus).

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General Habitat

"Found almost everywhere, this species prefers brightly lighted and open environments like open grasslands and flowery meadows of mid-high altitude. Marshes, dunes, and thorn scrubs also attract the Painted Lady."
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Painted Lady Butterflies are found almost anywhere, but they prefer brightly lit and open environments like clover fields, flowery meadows and hilly country.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: tundra ; taiga ; desert or dune ; chaparral ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest ; mountains

Wetlands: marsh ; swamp ; bog

Other Habitat Features: suburban ; agricultural

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The Painted Lady is found almost anywhere, but they tend to inhabit brightly lighted and open environments. They prefer clover fields, flowery meadows and hilly country. Marshes, dunes, and thorn scrubs also attract the Painted Lady.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: tundra ; taiga ; desert or dune ; chaparral ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest ; mountains

Wetlands: marsh ; swamp ; bog

Other Habitat Features: suburban ; agricultural

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Occurs in any area with flowers.

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Comments: A migratory species that potentially might find and use any patch of foodplants in good years. Normal habitats when not migrating include deserts, any kind of dry open fields with thistles, pastures etc. Overwintering areas seem to be frost-free portions of southwestern deserts and Mexico. Habitats checked off do not include casual use areas like downtown cities and alpine tundra.

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Found in a huge variety of habitats. Adults seem to prefer open areas with good populations of thistles (Cirsium and Carduus spp.), which are used as foodplants for the caterpillars, although a very wide range of foodplants may be used, including common nettle (Urtica dioica) and viper's bugloss (Echium vulgare) (2).
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Migration

"A long-distance migratory species, the Painted Lady shows a wide range, but is resident only in warmer areas and migrates in spring and sometimes again in autumn. Autumn migrations occur at high altitudes and are seldom witnessed."
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Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Trophic Strategy

Many composites (Asteraceae) have been recorded as larval hosts, but thistles (Cirsium spp.) seem to be favoured in western Canada (Guppy & Shepard 2001).
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"Larvae of the Painted Lady feed on more than 300 plant species including members of the family Asteraceae such as Cirsium sp, Carduus sp,Centaurea sp, Arctium sp, Helianthus sp. and Artemisia sp. Adults feed on flower nectar and sometimes aphid honeydew."
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Food Habits

The caterpillars of this species prefer the leaves of plants in the daisy family (Compositaceae) especially thistles, but can eat many different kinds of plants. Adult painted ladies sip nectar from flowers, and sometimes take "honeydew" from aphids (See Aphids).

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Food Habits

The Painted lady consumes more than 100 different plants, some include thistles, Burdock, and Groundsel. The Larval foodplants are thistles and members of the families Asteraceae and Malvaceae.

Primary Diet: herbivore

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Host-plants: a wide range, especially Malva.

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Comments: Larvae most often on thistles but many others reported.

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Associations

Flowering Plants Visited by Vanessa cardui in Illinois

Vanessa cardui Linnaeus: Nymphalidae, Lepidoptera
(observations are from Robertson, Graenicher, Hilty, Reed, Macior, Broyles & Wyatt, Wist, Fothergill & Vaughn; this butterfly is the Painted Lady)

Apiaceae: Eryngium yuccifolium sn (H); Asclepiadaceae: Asclepias exaltata [plup sn] (BW), Asclepias verticillata [plup sn] (H); Asteraceae: Aster lanceolatus sn (Rb), Aster novae-angliae sn (Rb), Aster pilosus sn (Rb), Aster salicifolius sn (Rb), Aster subulatus sn (FV), Bidens aristosa sn fq (Rb), Boltonia asterioides sn (Rb), Chrysopsis villosa sn (Re), Cirsium arvense sn (Re), Cirsium discolor sn (Rb, H), Echinacea angustifolia sn (Ws), Echinacea purpurea sn (Rb, H), Eupatorium serotinum sn (Rb), Euthamia graminifolia sn (Gr), Helianthus grosseserratus sn fq (Rb), Heliopsis helianthoides sn (Re), Liatris aspera sn (H, Re), Liatris pycnostachya sn (H), Silphium integrifolium sn (H), Silphium perfoliatum sn (Rb), Solidago canadensis sn (Rb), Solidago speciosa sn (Re), Taraxacum officinale sn (FV); Campanulaceae: Campanulastrum americanum sn (Rb); Fabaceae: Trifolium pratense sn (Rb, Re); Lamiaceae: Agastache foeniculum sn (Re), Blephilia hirsuta sn (Rb), Monarda fistulosa sn (Rb), Pycnanthemum tenuifolium sn (Rb); Lythraceae: Lythrum alatum sn (Rb); Ranunculaceae: Delphinium tricorne sn np (Mc); Rubiaceae: Cephalanthus occidentalis sn (Rb); Scrophulariaceae: Linaria vulgaris sn np (Rb); Verbenaceae: Verbena stricta sn (Re)

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"Larva of Phryxe vulgaris is an endoparasitoid of Cynthia cardui larvae. Vanessa cardui is prey to Aves, Araneae, Hymenoptera and Formicidae."
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Predation

Adult painted ladies' main defenses are flight and camouflage. The caterpillars hide in small silk nests on top of leaves, and may have chemical defenses, but this is uncertain.

Known Predators:

  • wasps (Hymenoptera)
  • spiders (Araneae)
  • ants (Formicidae)
  • birds (Aves)

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Animal / parasitoid / endoparasitoid
larva of Phryxe vulgaris is endoparasitoid of larva of Cynthia cardui

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Predation

Adult painted ladies' main defenses are flight and camouflage. The caterpillars hide in small silk nests on top of leaves, and may have chemical defenses, but this is uncertain.

Known Predators:

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Known predators

Vanessa cardui is prey of:
Aves
Araneae
Hymenoptera
Formicidae

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Population Biology

"10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals. Populations fluctuate greatly."
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Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

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Global Abundance

10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals

Comments: Population fluctuates greatly.

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Adults feed flower nectar and sometimes aphid honeydew (Scott, 1986).
  • Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press.
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Cyclicity

Can be found throughout the season, from late April into October.
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Life Cycle

The light green cylindrical eggs have vertical ribs. Mature larvae are grey-brown with fine yellow and black markings and yellow branched spines (Guppy & Shepard 2001). Larvae live in silken leaf-nests on the hostplant (Layberry et al. 1998). This species is rare or absent in Alberta in most years, but in years that populations build up in the southern United States, worn and often tattered migrants appear in May to lay their eggs, having flown thousands of miles. The offspring of these migrants emerge from July onwards. Since it is rare or absent in most years in Alberta, it is thought that Painted Ladies cannot overwinter here, and re-colonize in good migrant years. It is not known if summer brood individuals attempt a southward return migration in the fall here; they may in the southwestern US (Scott 1986), but there is no evidence they do so in British Columbia (Guppy & Shepard 2001).  
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"Eggs of the Painted Lady are tiny, green and ribbed. Caterpillars emerge from the capped part of the egg. When they emerge, caterpillars are small, black and begin to eat immediately. As they grow, they shed their skin thrice, called instars. As their development progresses, the caterpillar becomes more spiky. These spikes do not contain poison and are not sharp. If under stress, the caterpillar will sometimes shed into a fifth instar, which is a very large caterpillar. The four instars take 7–11 days to turn into a chrysalis. The caterpillar then spins a patch of silk and attaches its hind end to the silk. At this point it begins changing internally, forming a """"j"""" shape. The chrysalis is very soft at first and will dent if resting on a hard surface. After hardening, the chrysalis will crack if dropped or struck. The chrysalis can be dark or light colored depending on conditions during development of the caterpillar. It takes 7–11 days for the chrysalis to turn into a butterfly. When emerging from the chrysalis the butterfly pumps its wings with fluid to expand them. This happens within a few minutes of emerging or cannot happen at all. Once the wings are expanded they are still soft for up to a day. Initially the butterfly prefers not to move as its wings harden, but after the wings harden for a few hours the painted lady will become incredibly sensitive to movement and will damage its still soft wings when frightened."
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Development

Females lay eggs on the plants their babies will eat. The caterpillars that hatch out feed continuously and molt several times. After a few weeks they transform into a pupa, go through a complete metamorphosis, and emerge as an adult butterfly. The timing of this depends on the climate, the warmer it is the faster they grow.

Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis

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The eggs are laid singly and hatched after about a week. The larvae create a tent-like shelter of leaves spun together with silk, within which feeding takes place, and pupate inside these shelters. The adults emerge after about two weeks and it has several generations per year.

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Development

Females lay eggs on the plants their babies will eat. The caterpillars that hatch out feed continuously and molt several times. After a few weeks they transform into a pupa, go through a complete metamorphosis, and emerge as an adult butterfly. The timing of this depends on the climate, the warmer it is the faster they grow.

Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis

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The Flight Period

February-November

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Life Expectancy

"Lifespan depends on the climate, but is probably never more than one winter. Only adults survive through winter, and even then only in mild climates."
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Lifespan/Longevity

Lifespan depends on the climate, but is probably never more than one winter. Only adults survive through winter, and even then only in mild climates.

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Lifespan/Longevity

Lifespan depends on the climate, but is probably never more than one winter. Only adults survive through winter, and even then only in mild climates.

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Reproduction

"Mating System: polygynous A green, barrel-shaped egg is laid singly on a host plant. The color of the larva varies from chartreuse with black marbling to a purple with a yellow hue. Breeding season: All year in the tropics, spring and summer in cooler climates. Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; year-round breeding ; sexual ; fertilization (Internal); oviparous Parental Investment: no parental involvement."
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Mating System: polygynous

In the temperate zone, reproductive behavior stops in the fall, but it may go on year-round in warmer climates.

Breeding season: All year in the tropics, spring and summer in cooler climates.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; year-round breeding ; sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous

Parental Investment: no parental involvement

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Mating System: polygynous

A green, barrel-shaped egg is laid singly on a host plant. The color of the larva varies from chartreuse with black marbling to a purple with a yellow hue.

Breeding season: All year in the tropics, spring and summer in cooler climates.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; year-round breeding ; sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous

Parental Investment: no parental involvement

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Vanessa cardui

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 38
Specimens with Barcodes: 153
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Barcode data: Vanessa cardui

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 18 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.  Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.  See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

ACATTATATTTTATTTTCGGAATTTGAGCAGGAATAGTAGGAACTTCACTT---AGTTTATTAATTCGAACTGAATTAGGTAATCCAGGATCTTTAATTGGAGAT---GATCAAATTTATAATACAATTGTTACAGCTCATGCTTTTATTATAATTTTTTTCATAGTTATACCAATTATAATTGGAGGATTTGGTAATTGATTAGTTCCTTTAATA---TTAGGAGCTCCTGATATAGCCTTTCCACGTATAAATAATATAAGATTTTGACTTTTACCCCCGTCACTAATATTATTAATTTCTAGTAGAATTGTCGAAAACGGAGCAGGAACAGGATGAACAGTTTACCCCCCACTTTCATCTAATATTGCACACAGAGGATCATCTGTAGATTTA---GCAATTTTTTCCCTTCATTTAGCTGGTATTTCATCAATTCTAGGAGCAATTAACTTTATTACAACTATTATTAATATACGGGTTAATAGTATATCCTTTGATCAAATACCTTTATTTGTTTGAGCTGTGGGTATTACAGCATTACTTTTATTACTTTCTTTACCTGTTTTAGCTGGG---GCTATTACTATACTTTTAACAGATCGAAATATTAATACATCATTTTTCGATCCAGCAGGAGGAGGAGATCCAATTCTTTATCAACATTTATTTNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNATTTTAATTTTACCAGGTTTCGGAATAATTTCACACATTATTTCTCAAGAAAGAGGAAAAAAG---GAAACCTTTGGATGTTTAGGAATAATTTATGCTATAATAGCAATTGGATTATTAGGATTTATTGTATGAGCACATCATATATTTACAGTAGGTATAGATATTGATACTCGAGCTTATTTTACTTCAGCAACTATAATTATTGCTGTACCCACAGGAATTAAAATTTTTAGTTGATTA---GCAACATTACATGGAACT---CAAATTAATTATAGACCTTCTATATTATGAAGATTAGGATTTATTTTTTTATTTACAGTAGGAGGATTAACAGGAGTAATTTTAGCTAATTCATCTATTGATATTACTCTTCATGATACTTATTATGTTGTAGCTCATTTCCATTATGTA---TTATCTATAGGAGCTGTATTTGCTATTTTAGGTGGATTTATTCATTGATATCCTTTATTTACAGGATTAATAATAAATAACTATTTATTAAAAATTCAATTTATTTCAATATTTATTGGAGTTAATTTAACATTTTTCCCTCAACATTTTTTAGGATTAGCTGGTATACCTCGA---CGATACTCAGATTATCCAGATAGATTTATA---TCATGAAATATTATTTCATCTTTTGGATCTTATATTTCCTTATTATCTATAATAATAATTATTATTATTATTTGAGAATCTATAATTAATCAACGAATTATT---TTATTTTCATTAAATATACCTTCTTCT
-- end --

Download FASTA File
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Conservation

Conservation Status

Not of concern.
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Common
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These are such common butterflies that they need no special conservation efforts.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: no special status

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

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These are such common butterflies that they need no special conservation efforts.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

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Status in Egypt

Migrant

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IUCN

Not Assessed (not resident in Egypt)

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Abundance

Abundant

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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Abundant migratory. Occurs virtually worldwide.

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Status

Not listed under any conservation designations or legislation (2).
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Threats

Degree of Threat: D : Unthreatened throughout its range, communities may be threatened in minor portions of the range or degree of variation falls within natural variation

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The appearance of this species in Britain, and indeed its survival as a whole, relies on the persistence of suitable habitat in its source populations, outside of Europe (2).
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Management

Global Protection: Many to very many (13 to >40) occurrences appropriately protected and managed

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Conservation

No conservation measures are in place for this species.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Uses

"Raised in many preschool and elementary classrooms to demonstrate the life cycle of a butterfly, Vanessa cardui is very popular amongst children and is often used in science fair projects."
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Wikipedia

Vanessa cardui

Vanessa cardui is a well-known colourful butterfly, known as the Painted Lady, or in North America as the Cosmopolitan. This butterfly has a strange pattern of flying in a sort of screw shape.

Painted lady on a purple coneflower

Distribution[edit]

V. cardui is one of the most widespread of all butterflies, found on every continent except Antarctica and South America.[1] In Australia, V. cardui has a limited range around Bunbury, Fremantle, and Rottnest Island. However, its close relative, the Australian Painted Lady (Vanessa kershawi, sometimes considered a subspecies) ranges over half the continent. Other closely related species are the American Painted Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) and the West Coast Lady (Vanessa annabella).

Migration[edit]

Vanessa cardui occurs in any temperate zone, including mountains in the tropics. The species is resident only in warmer areas, but migrates in spring, and sometimes again in autumn. It migrates from North Africa and the Mediterranean to Britain in May and June, but for decades naturalists have debated whether the offspring of these immigrants ever make a southwards return migration.[2] Recent research suggests that British painted ladies do undertake an autumn migration.[2] Using an entomological radar, scientists at Rothamsted Research provided evidence that autumn migrations take place at high altitude, which could be why these migrations are seldom witnessed.[2]

The Vanessa cardui are known for their distinct migratory behavior. In California, they are usually seen flying from north to northwest. These migrations appear to be partially initiated by heavy winter rains in the desert where rainfall controls the growth of larval food plants.[3] Painted Lady migration patterns are highly erratic and they do not migrate every year.[4] There is evidence to suggest that global climatic events, such as El Nino, may affect the migratory behavior of the Painted Lady butterflies, causing large-scale migrations.[5]

Based on experimental data, it appears that the Painted Lady’s migration pattern in Northern Europe does not follow a strict northwest heading. The range of headings suggests that migrating butterflies may adjust their migration patterns in response to local topographical features and weather, such as strong wind patterns. Laboratory-raised autumn-generation Painted Lady butterflies were able to distinguish a southern orientation for a return migration path. According to the same laboratory-based study, when butterflies were isolated from the sun, they were unable to orient themselves in a specific direction, opposed to those who did have access to the sun. This suggests that Vanessa cardui require a direct view of the sky, implying the use of a solar compass to orient their migratory direction and maintain a straight flight path.[6]

Relationship with humans[edit]

Vanessa cardui butterflies are raised in many preschool and elementary classrooms to demonstrate the life cycle of a butterfly. Naturally, this is one reason they are so popular amongst children. They are also often found in science fair projects.

Life cycle with notes for rearing in classrooms[edit]

As these animals are cold blooded and their life cycle does not depend on a certain number of day/night cycles, temperature can greatly affect the times presented here.

At 90 °F (32 °C) the entire life cycles will take roughly 16 days. At 65 °F (18 °C) the life cycles will take months. At such extreme temperatures one can expect some deaths. At room temperatures the egg takes three to five days to hatch. The eggs are tiny, as tiny as a sugar crystal. They are green and ribbed and can be observed best with a magnifying glass. It is possible to view the cap at the top of the egg where the caterpillar will emerge.

The embryo can be viewed growing inside the egg using a hand lens or dissecting scope. A high powered dissecting scope allows for watching hatching quite clearly. If eggs turn deep green, or become dented and wrinkled, the eggs do not contain living embryos. Just before hatching the embryos fill the whole egg and make the eggs look black or brown. As protection against disease, newly laid eggs may be knocked off the leaf, or left attached to the leaf, and dipped in dilute household bleach solution (1 part household bleach to 200 parts water) for 1–2 minutes and swished about. Afterwards, the eggs are left on a paper towel to dry. This will kill disease on the surface of the eggs and increase caterpillar survival.

The caterpillars will emerge as small and black and will begin to eat immediately. As they grow they will shed their skins three times, called instars. At each instar the caterpillar will need much more food as it has expanded in size. It will also become more spiky. These spikes do not contain poison and are not sharp. The moulted skin appears as a black speck, what looks like dirt, near the caterpillar. Many people believe this to be the excretion of the caterpillar. Occasionally the moult will look like an entire, dead, caterpillar, as snake's skin does. If under stress they will sometimes shed into a fifth instar, which is a very large caterpillar. A fifth instar is a sign that care is incorrect in some way, typically due to diet.

The four instars take 7–11 days to turn into a chrysalis. The caterpillar will spin a patch of silk and attach its hind end to the silk. At this point it begins changing internally, forming a "j" shape. Once the caterpillar forms a J, it should not be disturbed as it can no longer reattach itself to the silk pad. A fallen "J" caterpillar can be laid on its side on a flat piece of cotton and may shed successfully. The chrysalis is very soft at first and will dent if resting on a hard surface. After hardening, the chrysalis will crack if dropped or struck. The chrysalis can be dark or light colored depending on conditions during development of the caterpillar. It takes 7–11 days for the chrysalis to turn into a butterfly.

When emerging from the chrysalis the butterfly pumps its wings with fluid to expand them. This happens within a few minutes of emerging or cannot happen at all. Once the wings are expanded they are still soft for up to a day. Initially the butterfly prefers not to move as its wings harden, but after the wings harden for a few hours the painted lady will become incredibly sensitive to movement and will damage its still soft wings when frightened. It is best to wait a full day after emergence from the chrysalis to handle a painted lady. Its wing span is 2 inches (50 mm).

Mating behavior in relation to migration[edit]

Vanessa cardui displays a unique system of continuous mating, throughout all seasons, including the winter. This may be attributed to the migratory patterns of the painted lady butterfly, thus  significantly affecting its mating behavior. During European migrations, the butterflies will immediately begin to mate and lay eggs upon arrival in the Mediterranean in the spring, starting late May.[7] In the United States, painted lady butterflies migrating towards the North experience poor mating conditions, and many butterflies have limited breeding capabilities.[8] The “local adult generation” develops during this time, roughly from the middle of May through early June in conjunction with the butterfly progression throughout their flight.[7]

During its migratory process, these painted lady butterflies will start breeding, and reproduce entirely throughout their migration.[9] Scientists have not been able to find evidence of the Vanessa cardui overwintering; this may be attributed to the fact that they migrate to warmer locations in order to survive and reproduce.[8] It is suspected that female painted lady butterflies suspend their flight temporarily when they are “ready to oviposit”;[10] this allows them the opportunity to continually reproduce throughout their migrations. Because these butterflies are constantly migrating, it is believed that  male butterflies lack consistent territory. Instead of requiring territory to mate with females and developing evolutionary behavior to defend this territory, the mating butterflies appear to establish a particular “time and place”  in certain locations that they find to be suitable for reproduction.[10] More specifically, they will locate certain perches, hilltops, forest-meadow edges, or other landmarks that they will stay  on until, presumably, a female painted lady arrives to mate.[10]

Equally important for the reproduction of the painted lady butterflies is the male butterflies’ exhibition of polygynous mating behavior, in which the males often mate with more than one female butterfly.[11] This is important for painted lady butterflies because the benefits may supersede the costs of polygyny[12] since there is no permanent breeding ground.  Upon mating, which typically occurs in the afternoon, female painted lady butterflies lays her eggs one by one in her desired breeding locations.[10] The variety of eclosion locations ultimately dictates the male painted lady behavior.[13]

Female painted lady butterflies have been observed to have a relatively “high biotic potential”, meaning they produce large numbers of offspring per female. This perpetual influx of reproduction may be a reason why these painted lady butterflies have propagated so successfully. One interesting aspect that scientists have observed is that these butterflies like to fly towards rain. Further studies have suggested that the large amounts of rainfall may somehow “activate more eggs or induce better larval development”.[14] Inhabited locations begin to observe a large influx of new generations of painted lady butterflies in the fall, particularly in September and October. Their reproductive success declines relatively throughout the winter, primarily through November.[7] However, they still continue to reproduce—an aspect of butterfly behavior that is quite unique. Scientists hypothesize that these extensive migratory patterns help the painted lady butterflies find suitable conditions for breeding, thus offering a possible reason as to why these butterflies mate continuously.

Oviposition[edit]

Adult butterflies will feed on flower nectar and aphid honeydew.[10] Female Vanessa cardui will oviposit on plants with nectar immediately available for the adults even if it leads to high mortality of the larvae. This lack of discrimination indicates the Vanessa cardui do not take into account volatile chemicals released from potential host plants when searching for oviposition choices.[10]

It has been found that the availability of adult resources dictates preference for specific areas of flowers. A study in the Journal of Insect Behavior found that flowers with more available nectar resulted in a larger number of eggs deposited on the pants. This reinforces the idea that the Painted Lady butterfly does not discriminate host plants and chooses mainly on availability of adult food sources even if it increases mortality rate of the offspring. The data also suggests that the Painted Lady butterfly favors quantity of offspring over quality.[10]

Roosting behavior and territory[edit]

Groups of two to eight Painted Lady butterflies have been observed to fly in circles around each other for about one to five seconds before separating symbolizing courtship. Groups of butterflies usually will not fly more than 4.5 meters away from the starting point.[10] In order to establish and defend their territory, adult males will perch in the late afternoon in areas where females are most likely to appear.[10] Once the male spots a female of the same species, they will begin pursuit of her. If the foreign butterfly is a male, the original male will give chase, flying vertically for a few feet before returning to its perch.[10]

The Vanessa cardui establish territories within areas sheltered by hedgerows.[10] Vanessa cardui tend to inhabit sunny, brightly lit, open environments and are often attracted to open areas of flowers and clovers.[10] Adult Vanessa cardui will spend time in small depressions in the ground on overcast days.[10]

Host plants[edit]

Larvae feed on Asteraceae spp., including Cirsium, Carduus,Centaurea, Arctium, Helianthus, and Artemisia spp.[1][15]

The painted lady uses over 300 recorded host plants according to the HOSTS database.[16] For raising in the classroom one need only sprout a bed of black oil sunflower seeds, as are used for bird seed. The caterpillars will eat the true adult leave (not the sprouts) and in this way one may inexpensively produce many host plants. Soak the seeds for eight hours in 10% diluted household bleach (1 pt bleach, 9 pts water) to ensure a disease free, even sprouting. Place the seeds upon the surface of the soil and keep moist until they grow roots and can be watered normally.

Defense mechanisms[edit]

The main defense mechanisms of the Painted Lady butterflies include flight and camouflage. The Venessa cardui caterpillars will hide in small silk nests on top of leaves from main predators that include wasps, spiders, ants, and birds.[17]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Painted Lady". A-Z of Butterflies. Butterfly Conservation. Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c "Butterfly Conservation: Secrets of Painted Lady migration unveiled". BirdGuides Ltd. Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  3. ^ Orsak, L. J. (1977). The Butterflies of Orange County, California. Center for Pathobiology Miscellaneous Publication #3. University of CaliforniaPress, New York. 349pp.
  4. ^ Larsen, T.B. 1984. Butterflies of Saudi Arabia and Its Neighbours. Stacey International, London, 160 pp.
  5. ^ Tilden, J.W. 1962. General characteristics of the movements of Vanessa cardui (L.). Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 1: 43-49.
  6. ^ Nesbit, R.L., J.K. Hill, I.P. Woiwod, D. Sivell, K.J. Bensusan, and J.W. Chapman. "Seasonally Adaptive Migratory Headings Mediated By A Sun Compass In The Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa Cardui."Animal Behaviour 78 (2009): 1119-1125. Print.
  7. ^ a b c Stefanescu, C., Páramo, F., Åkesson, S., Alarcón, M., Ávila, A., Brereton, T., Carnicer, J., Cassar, L. F., Fox, R., Heliölä, J., Hill, J. K., Hirneisen, N., Kjellén, N., Kühn, E., Kuussaari, M., Leskinen, M., Liechti, F., Musche, M., Regan, E. C., Reynolds, D. R., Roy, D. B., Ryrholm, N., Schmaljohann, H., Settele, J., Thomas, C. D., van Swaay, C. and Chapman, J. W. (2012), Multi-generational long-distance migration of insects: studying the painted lady butterfly in the Western Palaearctic. Ecography. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0587.2012.07738.x
  8. ^ a b Shapiro, Art. "Vanessa cardui". Art Shapiro's Butterfly Site. Information Center for the Environment (ICE). Retrieved 25 September 2013. 
  9. ^ VANDENBOSCH, R. (2003), Fluctuations of Vanessa cardui butterfly abundance with El Niño and Pacific Decadal Oscillation climatic variables. Global Change Biology, 9: 785–790. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2486.2003.00621.x
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Tilden, J. W. (1962). "General Characteristics of the Movements of Vanessa Cardui (L.)" Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 43-49
  11. ^ Harris, Marie. "Vanessa cardui". Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. Retrieved 25 September 2013. 
  12. ^ Davies, N., Krebs, J., & West, S. (2012). An introduction to behavioral ecology. (4th ed.). West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
  13. ^ Rutowski, Ronald L. (1991). "The Evolution of Male Mate-Locating Behavior in Butterflies". The American Naturalist Vol. 138, No. 5: 1121-1139.
  14. ^ Abbott, Charles H. (1951). "A Quantitative Study of the Migration of the Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa Cardui L." Ecology Vol. 32, No. 2: 155-171.
  15. ^ Vanessa cardui, Butterflies of Canada
  16. ^ "Vanessa cardui". HOSTS - a Database of the World's Lepidopteran Hostplants. The Natural History Museum. Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  17. ^ Harris, M. 1999. "Vanessa cardui" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed September 16, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Vanessa_cardui/

Further reading[edit]

  • Opler, Paul A.; Wright, Amy Bartlett (1999). A Field Guide to Western Butterflies. Peterson Field Guides. Boston: Holt McDougal. ISBN 978-0-547-35114-8. 
  • Chapman, Jason W.; Nesbit, Rebecca L.; Burgin, Laura E.; Reynolds, Don R.; Smith, Alan D.; Middleton, Douglas R.; Hill, Jane K. (2010). "Flight Orientation Behaviors Promote Optimal Migration Trajectories in High-Flying Insects". Science 327 (5966): 682–5. doi:10.1126/science.1182990. PMID 20133570. 
  • Nesbit, R.L.; Hill, J.K.; Woiwod, I.P.; Sivell, D.; Bensusan, K.J.; Chapman, J.W. (2009). "Seasonally adaptive migratory headings mediated by a sun compass in the painted lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui". Animal Behaviour 78 (5): 1119–25. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2009.07.039. 
  • Bolotov I.N. 2012. The Fauna and Ecology of Butterflies (Lepidoptera, Rhopalocera) of the Kanin Peninsula and Kolguev Island. - Entomological Review 92(3): 296-304. DOI 10.1134/S0013873812030062
  • Bolotov I.N. 2004. Long-Term Changes in the Fauna of Diurnal Lepidopterans (Lepidoptera, Diurna) in the Northern Taiga Subzone of the Western Russian Plain. Russ. J. Ecol. 35(2): 117–123. DOI 10.1023/B:RUSE.0000018937.44836.c6
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