The Painted Lady may be the most widespread butterfly in the world. It also known as the thistle butterfly and the cosmopolitan (because it is so widespread, occurring in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa). This flying butterfly lives in temperate and some tropical areas. Quicksilver Farm is fortunate enough to lie in its migration pathway, and this year we have so many of them!
The Painted Lady begins life as an egg about the size of a pin head. Eggs are soft green with longitudinal ridges; they are laid on vegetation such as hollyhock leaves. The incubation period is 3 to 5 days.
The caterpillar eats continually for 5 to 10 days before it pupates. The caterpillar has long spines on each segment and is black or purple with green stripes and grows up to 1 -1/4 inches long. It builds a silky, webbed nest as it feeds.As the larva grows, it sheds its skin (this is called molting). The time between sheddings is called an instar.
When the caterpillar has grown enough, it pupates. It hangs upside-down from a leaf or branch, anchoring itself with a single silk string. A butterfly forms from the caterpillar, with a total internal structural change. The chrysalis is almost transparent when the butterfly is about to emerge in 7 to 10 days.
When the butterfly emerges from the split chrysalis, it hangs upside down and pumps blood into its four wings, inflating them. Then it waits for its wings to dry. It flies a few hours after emerging.
The adult Painted Lady is mostly black, brown, and orange with some white spots and the underside is gray with white and red markings. Adults can mate in about a week after emerging.These delicate butterflies only live about 2 weeks. We are so lucky to have them en masse today at Quicksilver Farm!