Species of the month

Species of the Month: Painted Lady

Painted Lady © Jim Higham 

Help us with our wildlife surveys

Our Species of the Month species surveys are an important way you can help us.  Records are sent to DERC (Dorset Environmental Records Centre) who collate this information to build up a picture of the of the state of Dorset's wildlife. So please help us help wildlife by filling in the form below. Thank you!

July Species of the Month: Painted Lady

Scientific Name: Vanessa cardui


Mainly orange above with black wing tips. Forewings have white spots whereas lower wings have black spots. The underside is a paler brown 

Painted Lady © Jim Higham

Painted Lady © Jim Higham 


Caterpillar food plants include thistles, nettles, and viper’s bugloss.  The adult  can be seen feeding on nectar from flowers such as buddleia, aster and thistle. 



The painted lady migrates to Europe from North Africa.  It is thought that migration is triggered if the density of a population reaches a certain size.  The numbers seen in the UK vary each year and sadly none of the life cycle stages can survive the winter here. Flying at an altitude of over 1000 feet, it is thought that some painted ladies attempt the return journey to Europe and Africa in autumn.  

Did you know?

The painted lady has the longest recorded migration of any butterfly and can reach speeds of nearly 30mph!  The painted lady is the most widespread of all butterflies 

Where can they be found?

The painted lady is widespread and can be seen in most habitats, especially where there is an abundance of flowers for them to feed on. 

See if you can spot one at any one of our reserves including: 

Ashley Wood Nature Reserve 

Bracketts Coppice Nature Reserve 

Greenhill Down Nature Reserve 


Wildlife gardening tips

To attract butterflies, such as the painted lady, into your garden, plant nectar-rich borders for them to feed along. 

Species of the Month sightings form

Your details will only be used by Dorset Wildlife Trust and we will never give your information to other organisations to use for their own purposes. You can change your communications preference at any time by contacting us on 01202 692033. When you have completed the form, please click the Send button.

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Blue tit © Stewart Canham