This butterfly is known by three names; Cosmopolitan for its global span, Thistle for its favored food, and Painted Lady for its impressive display.
Painted lady butterflies migrate like monarchs. Unlike them, they don’t seem to follow seasonal or geographic patterns. They can have what’s known as irruptive migrations where mass numbers can be seen around September flowers.
Late summer generations can fly 100 miles per day during southern migration. They can reach speeds of nearly 30 miles per hour. Painted ladies are long distance northern migrants and usually return before monarchs.
Look for their caterpillars on thistle plants. And try to spy their silky tents. It takes new butterflies a half hour to break through their chrysalis and another few hours to dry out before first flight.
For more on the painted lady butterfly, visit our Field Guide.