- Family: Nymphalidae
- Scientific name: Vanessa cardui
- English common name: Painted Lady
- Spanish common name: Cardera /Vanesa de los cardos
- Portuguese common name: Bela dama
The Painted Lady – Vanessa cardui – Vanesa de los cardos butterfly begins its amazing migration from Africa in the early spring, heading north into most areas of Europe. Once there the numbers swell as the second generation develops, but due to the winter cold they do not complete a return journey, therefore their numbers fluctuate greatly from one year to the next. Some are able to hibernate in the milder Mediterranean areas in the south of Europe where they can be seen most months of the year.
(For about 2 weeks in spring in western Andalucia, near to the Mediterranean coast, we have observed large numbers of them passing northwards in a single line, moments apart, from morning to evening whilst there is warmth from the sun.)
The upper wings are mainly salmon pink to orange, marked with black. Triangles on the fore wing tips are black, with white markings. The underside forewing has these same colours but paler whilst the hindwing is marbled brown, white and black with 5 eye spots.
The caterpillars of this species grow up to 3cm, they are varied in colour but often black, hairy with a fine off-white horizontal line just above the legs.
- Wing size: 54-58mm
- Altitude: Sea level to 3000m
- Flight time: March-October (June-October in more northern areas)
- Over-wintering: Adults hibernate
- Caterpillar food plant: Thistles, Nettles, Mallows
- Distribution: Virtually Worldwide
Similar species: The American Painted Lady, Cynthia virginiensis may be seen in Portugal and the Canary Islands. (Cynthia virginiensis has only two eye spots on the underside hindwing)
Butterflies of Iberia. List of butterflies found in Andalusia. Images taken in Andalucia, Southern Spain.
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