Butterflies of the
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
Tribe - NYMPHALINI
Kajelnada, West Sikkim, India
© Adrian Hoskins
The Painted Lady is the most widely distributed butterfly in the
world, found throughout Europe and temperate Asia, over most of
Africa, Madagascar, the Azores, the Canary Islands, the Arab states,
and throughout the Indian subcontinent including Sri Lanka. In the
Far East it occurs in Thailand, Malaysia, Borneo and Sumatra. Its
range extends south through the Indonesian islands to Western
Australia. It also occurs in North America, on most Caribbean
islands and in Venezuela.
distribution of the species results from a combination of its very
strong migratory behaviour and its polyphagous nature - in Europe
the caterpillars feed almost exclusively on thistles, but elsewhere
in the world they use a vast range of foodplants amongst the
Malvaceae, Compositae, Labiatae, Boraginaceae, Ulmaceae,
Rutaceae, Urticaceae, Rosaceae, Verbenaceae, Rhamnaceae,
Cucurbitaceae, Leguminosae, Chenopodiaceae, Hydrophyllaceea,
Convolvulaceae, Plantaginaceae, Cruciferae, Umbelliferae and
even one or two grass species !
feature common to most migratory species is that there tends to be
very little variation in pattern between individuals. Apart from
minor variations in colour a Painted Lady from N.America or Europe
will be identical to one from Africa, India or Australia.
Due to its migratory nature the Painted Lady
can be encountered in any almost any
habitat - heaths, open areas within
forests, grassland, rice fields, urban
gardens, city parks
and town centres.
pale green eggs are laid singly on the upper surface of leaves of the
foodplants. The caterpillars hatch in less than a week. They eat their
eggshell after hatching and then begin feeding on
the lower cuticle of the leaf, leaving distinctive patches visible on
the upper surface. Shortly afterwards they spin a silk web on the
underside of the leaf. When older they eat the entire leaf with the
exception of the central vein and the spines.
The mature larva is
black and has a prominent yellow broken stripe
along each side. It lives and feeds within a tent of leaves spun
together with silk. These silk tents in which the conspicuous
droppings are enmeshed, make the larvae easy to find. When fully grown
larva spins together a new
tent of leaves, within which it pupates. The chrysalis is greyish
pink, with an overall golden lustre.
The butterflies are
powerful flyers and habitually fly from flower to flower, stopping for
just a few seconds at each to take nectar. They visit a wide range of
species including cultivated flowers.
territories intersections on forest roads, or
field edges. They also commonly gather at hilltop sites where
courtship and copulation take place.
New Delhi, India
© Bodhisattwa Dasgupta