Painted lady

Painted Lady butterfly

Painted Lady ©Gillian Day

Painted Lady

Painted Lady ©Scott Petrek

Painted lady

Scientific name: Vanessa cardui
A well-travelled migrant, the painted lady arrives here every summer from Europe and Africa. This beautiful orange-and-black butterfly regularly visits gardens.

Species information


Wingspan: 5.8-7.4cm

Conservation status


When to see

April to October


A fairly large orange, black and white butterfly, the painted lady is a migrant to the UK from North Africa, the Middle East and southern Europe during the summer; sometimes it arrives here in enormous numbers. A frequent visitor to gardens, it will feed on Buddleia and other flowers. The caterpillars feed on thistles, mallows and Viper's-bugloss, as well as various cultivated plants. This species cannot survive our winter in any form.

How to identify

The painted lady is mainly orange above, with black tips to the forewings that are adorned with white spots, and black spots on the hindwings and forewings. The small tortoiseshell is also orange with black spots, but has distinctive yellow spots on the forewings and blue spots along the wing margins.



Did you know?

The painted lady is one of the most widespread species of butterfly, found right across the world with the exception of South America. The Australian type is classified by some as a different species.

How people can help

To attract butterflies, such as the painted lady, into your garden, plant nectar-rich borders for them to feed along and climbing Ivy and shrubs for overwintering insects.


Painted lady resting on path, Fen Bog Yorks WT ©Tom Hibbert