Painted Lady

Vanessa cardui


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, as happened in 2009, it can be seen migrating 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.

How to identify

The Painted Lady is mainly orange above, with black tips to the forewings adorned with white spots, and black spots on the hind and forewings. May be confused with Red Admiral or Small Tortoiseshell.

Where to find it

Found right across the country.


When to find it

  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October

How can people help

Butterflies such as the Painted Lady will happily visit your garden and are a joy to watch. To attract Painted Lady butterflies into your garden, plant Buddleia bushes and nectar-rich borders for them to feed on, and leave patches of thistles or nettles for the caterpillars. To find out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit our Wild About Gardens website: a joint initiative with the RHS, there's plenty of facts and tips to get you started.

Species information

Common name
Painted Lady
Latin name
Vanessa cardui
Butterflies and moths
Wingspan: 5.8-7.4cm
Conservation status