Painted Lady

Vanessa cardui (Linnaeus, 1758)



A medium sized salmon-coloured butterfly with black markings on the upperside. The forewing underside is similar but paler than the upperside. The hindwing underside is marbled brown and white, with some submarginal black spots. Males and females are similar. The markings are distinctive and it shouldn’t be confused with any other species. 

Habitat Requirements

Potentially encountered anywhere - ubiquitous.

Larval Foodplants

Wormwood Artemisia absinthium, Artemisia arborecens, Chinese Mugwort Artemisia verlotiorum, Mugwort Artemisia vulgaris, Carduus acicularis, Musk Thistle Carduus nutans, Musk Thistle Carduus nutans subsp. taygeteus - doubtfully present, Carduus pycnocephalus, Cirsium creticum, Cirsium creticum subsp. creticum, Cirsium italicum, Spear Thistle Cirsium vulgare, Echium angustifolium, Echium angustifolium subsp. angustifolium, Echium arenarium, Italian Viper's-bugloss Echium italicum, Echium italicum subsp. biebersteinii, Echium parviflorum parviflorum, Purple Viper's-bugloss Echium plantagineum, Viper's-bugloss Echium vulgare, Tree-mallow Malva arborea, Malva cretica, Malva cretica subsp. cretica, Malva multiflora, Dwarf Mallow Malva neglecta, Malva nicaeensis, Malva parviflora, Malva punctata, Small Mallow Malva pusilla, Rough Marsh-mallow Malva setigera, Common Mallow Malva sylvestris, Malva unguiculata.

In Corfu, Anne Sordinas has seen larvae feeding on Mallow Malva spp. Gillian Elsom believes the host plant Anne observed was either M. pusilla or M. neglecta.


The butterfly has multiple broods a year, and is a well-known long distance migrant, so can be found in any sunny location, particularily on the coast. On occasions Corfu has witnessed truly spectacular numbers of immigrant Painted Ladies. In March 2016 John Denne recorded 2675 sighting of this species in his Arillas garden. This migration was so unusual that John's observation was reported in a television program about the Painted Lady butterfly, made by the BBC.

*The information provided in the tables below is based on verified sightings of the Painted Lady submitted via this website since 1st January 2021.

First and Last Sightings

Year First Last/latest # Days
2023 01/01/2023 24/11/2023 327 days
2022 10/02/2022 31/12/2022 324 days
2021 17/01/2021 01/12/2021 318 days

Number of Observations

Year Number of observations
2023 1442
2022 534
2021 201
Grand Total 2177

Distribution Map

Distribution maps for this species are currently unavailable.

Flight Times for the Painted Lady (2023)

The chart below shows flight data by month for 2023

Flight Times for the Painted Lady (All Data)

The chart below shows flight data by month since 1st January 2021


  • Vernacular/Common Name: Painted Lady
  • Family: Nymphalidae (Rafinesque, 1815)
  • Sub-family: Nymphalinae (Rafinesque, 1815)
  • Tribe: Nymphalini (Rafinesque, 1815)
  • Genus: Vanessa (Fabricius, 1807)
  • Species: cardui (Linnaeus, 1758)


For a list of references, please see our bibliography page.