2-2 1/4" (51-57 mm). FW tip extended slightly, rounded. Above, salmon-orange with black blotches, black-patterned margins, and broadly black FW tips with clear white spots; outer HW crossed by small black-rimmed blue spots. Below, FW dominantly rose-pink with olive, black, and white pattern; HW has small blue spots on olive background with white webwork. FW above and below has white bar running from costa across black patch near tip.
American Painted Lady has large eyespots below. West Coast Lady has orange bar across black patch near FW tip.
Egg pale green, barrel-shaped; laid singly. Caterpillar, to 1 1/4" (32 mm), varies from chartreuse with black marbling to purplish with yellow back stripe; has short spines. Chrysalis, to 7/8" (22 mm), lavender-brown, bumpy, bluntly beaked; hangs upside down. Preferred host plant is thistle (Cirsium) but also feeds on great array of other composites (Asteraceae) and mallows (Malvaceae).
2 or more broods; all year in southern deserts, April-June until hard frosts in North.
Anywhere, especially flowery meadows, parks, and mountaintops.
All of North America well into sub-Arctic, and south to Panama; naturalized in Hawaii.
This species deserves its alternate name, "Cosmopolite." Despite its inability to overwinter in any stage above a certain undetermined latitude, the Painted Lady is perhaps the most widespread butterfly in the world, found throughout Africa, Europe, Asia and many islands, as well as in North America. Most of North America is devoid of Painted Ladies between the first heavy frosts and the onset of spring, although they occur year-round in the Sonoran deserts and perhaps other warm regions. In February and March, Painted Ladies begin infiltrating the North and East from the Southwest, and by late spring, they have recolonized the continent. The number of immigrants fluctuates greatly from one year to the next. Several mechanisms have been proposed to explain the variance: cycles of parasite attack, host plant defoliation, and superabundance of nectar following heavy winter rains. Unlike the Monarch's annual round-trip outings, the movements of the Painted Lady are essentially one-way.