Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah
image A painted-lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) perches on a finger as it is photographed. It was found sipping nectar on a plant near Smelter Road.

December 17, 2015
Painted-lady butterflies reproduce throughout entire migration

The Vanessa cardui butterfly is a species commonly referred to as the painted-lady. They are a familiar sight to yards, meadows, swamps, forests, deserts, roadsides, dunes, and other various places that possess their favored nectar and host plants. This painted-lady species inhabits all continents, excluding Antarctica and Australia, and are known for their particular migrating behaviors.

In North America, the painted-lady will migrate from Mexico when temperatures begin to get too hot. From there, they venture into the northern United States, on into Canada and then back to Mexico once the weather begins to grow colder. Though the distance of their migration can reach up to 9,000 miles, the painted-lady butterfly is a swift flyer. They can cover up to a hundred miles each day. They also stay approximately 6-12 feet above the ground when migrating.

Because the adult’s lifespan generally doesn’t last longer than two weeks, the painted-lady’s migration is completed by one or more generations. While migrating, males will perch in various spots during the afternoon so that they may readily locate females. Such lookout spots are frequently located on shrubs at the tops of hills.

Males being behaviorally polygynous, they will copulate with several females which will lay their eggs as they continue to travel. A single female may lay up to 500 eggs individually on various host plants. Once the offspring undergo complete metamorphosis, painted-lady butterflies will then resume the migration as soon as they reach adulthood.

Taylor Lindsay is a writer and photographer of creatures big and small. She can be contacted at

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