Painted lady butterflies are medium-sized, with a wingspan of about 5 cm. The topsides of their wings are orange with black blotches and white spots. Underneath, wing color is a beautiful combination of brown, pink, dark green, black and white.
Painted Lady butterflies can be seen at all locations in the Pacific Northwest, look for them in meadows, city parks, gardens, and at the forest edge.
These butterflies migrate north every spring. They lay their eggs on host plants which include, thistles, oak trees, English plantain, and daisies.
When cold weather arrives, painted lady butterflies head back south. The migration of these butterflies is still a great mystery.
Painted lady eggs are pale green and barrel-shaped. They are laid on the leaves of host plants. When the caterpillar’s hatch they begin to feed right away. The caterpillars are black with yellow markings, and they can grow to over 2.5 cm long before they turn to pupae. The pupa of the butterfly is called a chrysalis. A painted lady chrysalis is brown and bumpy. After a couple of weeks, adult butterflies will emerge from the cocoons.
Adult butterflies feed on the nectar from many flowers, including goldenrod, milkweeds, asters, and blazing stars.
Male painted ladies are very territorial. They will claim a territory and guard it with fierceness. When other males come near, he will chase them away while he waits patiently for a female to arrive.
Sometimes the caterpillars will form silk nests, much as tent caterpillars do. Walking along any trail on the coast, you are quite likely going to see more than a few of these beauties, they will move ahead of you, landing after each flight, and will let you approach close each time, so have your camera ready.