Other common names: Thistle Butterfly, Cosmopolitan Butterfly
Scientific name: Vanessa cardui
The Painted Lady Butterfly is found all over the world except in the Arctic regions, and Australia. They are commonly seen in open sunny fields with lots of different vegetation, especially flowers. Marshes and dunes also attract this butterfly.
Appearance / health:
The adult Painted Lady Butterfly’s wings contain dark brown and orange patterns, with white spots. The edge of the wings are choppy and jagged reaching up to 3 inch wingspan. The underside of the wings are monotone and are gray scale compared to the top side (usually pale browns and white). The actual body of this butterfly is a dark brown color. Painted Lady caterpillars are 1 - 1 1/2 inches in length and primarily a fuzzy brown or black with faint stripe down either side.
Behavior / temperament:
Painted Lady butterflies are completely harmless to humans and animals. Raising the caterpillars is both a fascinating and fun experience that nearly anyone can appreciate and enjoy. Like stated before, these butterflies are best let go (if weather permits) once the caterpillar has gone through metamorphosis and the butterfly is ready to fly. This is a great butterfly to raise for people of all ages and experience.
Caterpillars can be kept in large jars or critter keepers that are well ventilated. Adults should have large fully screened enclosures that are large enough for them to fly for short periods.
Temperatures and humidity should mimic the temps and humidity that it would encounter out in the wild. Generally this can be anywhere from 70-85F with humidity levels of 50-70%. No substrates are needed and paper towels work best for cleaning up droppings from the caterpillars. For raising the caterpillars tank décor should be plants that they feed on along with branches and twigs for more climbing space. Adult butterflies should also have the plants that they eat inside the enclosure as well as other flowers, branches, and twigs.
Painted Lady caterpillars feed on a wide variety of plants that include, thistles, clover, alfalfa, and mallows. Adult butterflies may be difficult to feed, which is why they are usually released into the wild after the caterpillar goes through its metamorphosis. Adult butterflies will readily take sugar water and you can provide this by creating a sugar water solution and putting it in a cup. Put a lid on the cup and cut a hole in the center to place a paper towel inside. The paper towels’ bottom should be pushed down into the hole far enough so that it just touches the water. The rest of the paper towel will stick out like a wick, allowing the butterfly to suck it up with its long “tongue.”
A Good Science Experiment
My mom got these as caterpillars from Insectlore when I was a kid, and I fully intend to do the butterfly experiment with my own kids when the time comes. She chose painted ladies because they are native to our area, so, in the summer, we could release them without worrying about hurting the environment, or about killing the butterflies. I like to imagine that the descendants of our butterflies are still flying around my childhood home today. I have a good reason; sometimes I still see painted ladies when I visit around summertime..
From charmscale Sep 28 2015 11:58AM
Great Educational Animal
I owned about five painted lady butterflies for a few months a year or two ago. I got the special "butterfly canopy" house for them and then ordered the caterpillars through the mail. They were so funny when I got them, just little black worms contentedly munching on their mush and waiting for their chance to shine. And shine they did. When they about doubled in size, they hid away in little cocoons, spun from their own silk. A week or two later, they emerged as beautiful, fully grown butterflies. Only one died during the process of emerging from their cocoon for unknown reasons. It's cruel to keep the butterflies in such a cramped cage for more than a few days, so I set them free in my backyard. To this day, there is still a population of painted lady butterflies roaming the property. They are excellent educational pets for children and adults. Highly recommended!
From coocoocachooboo May 10 2011 3:50PM