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Painted Ladies On Their Way

9-28-17 painted lady2 IMG_1979For the past few weeks we have been witnessing the migration of thousands of southward-bound orange butterflies, a vast majority of which are not Monarchs (although they are having a good year, too) but Painted Ladies (Vanessa cardui). Both their large numbers and the length of time that they have lingered in the Northeast this fall are unusual.

This was a good year for Painted Ladies — they migrated north earlier than usual, arriving in mid-April, possibly giving them time to have an extra generation, reproducing twice instead of once during the summer. In addition, the unusual weather we’ve been having has not been great for migrating. The butterflies have spent a lot of time fueling up on nectar while waiting for a wind out of the Northeast to assist them in their flight to the Southwest. With the prevailing wind change we’re now experiencing, it’s likely many of them will resume their migration today.

12 responses

  1. Nannette Orr

    this is more info than I remember getting from Tait AND in the picture, you can see the blue dots on the underside. Mary Holland is in Vermont, so my memory of them being more southern was wrong tho they actually migrate to us from the south

    N >

    September 28, 2017 at 7:55 am

  2. shielaswett

    Thank you, Mary, for your most informative Painted Lady info. So glad I know what it is now! Be sure to check out Tuesday’s Science Times Page 2 article about the beauty of butterflies and more… most unusual!

    September 28, 2017 at 8:11 am

  3. Alice Pratt

    Beautiful photo and gorgeous butterfly with so many markings.

    September 28, 2017 at 8:19 am

  4. Bill On The Hill...

    Great post Mary… I agree, they have had plenty of fuel for the upcoming migration. I have witnessed an astonishing amount of these beauties all summer long in my fields along with the monarchs feeding on joe pye weed blossoms, goldenrod, asters, etc. here in the highlands of central Vermont…
    Effective overnight, I believe we are back to the norms of cooler temps heading into autumn.
    Bill Farr @ WGF Studio53

    September 28, 2017 at 8:26 am

  5. Mike Levine

    Mary, There have been many times I’ve seen the subject of your blog right around the time that you mention them. I took these pictures a few days ago and I want to share them with you after seeing your picture this morning.



    September 28, 2017 at 9:27 am

  6. Kathie Fiveash

    Mary, I think that the inset photo is actually an American lady, because of the small white dots on the center of the dorsal side of the forewing. I was just recently looking into the differences between these two Vanessa species, and that is the easiest one to spot, along with the two large eyespots on the ventral hindwings of the American lady compared with the 4 smaller eyespots on the painted lady – which you can see in your photo. I think that both of these butterflies migrate, though from what I read their migration is sporadic, not necessarily every year. We have SO MANY of them here on the island right now! They are everywhere – but I have not been, until today, careful about noticing how many of each of these similar species are passing through.

    September 28, 2017 at 9:37 am

    • Kathie,

      I agree with you. American Lady. And I think Mary’s been a bit ambiguous about the names in Naturally Curious: Day by Day, so it adds a touch of confusion.


      September 28, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    • You are absolutely, 100% correct, Kathie! That was a photo from years ago, which I obviously had mis-identified, and didn’t double-check it before using it in the insert! At least I got one out of two right! Many thanks – what a keen eye you have!

      September 29, 2017 at 7:49 am

  7. Diane

    Have many of these in the garden.

    September 28, 2017 at 10:24 am

  8. Donna Roscoe

    My field is covered with them – they are enjoying the goldenrod

    September 28, 2017 at 12:44 pm

  9. Anne Woodhull

    waiting for the right wind in their sails. ..! >

    September 28, 2017 at 9:27 pm

  10. Shelagh Smith

    After a check round my garden yesterday in a stiff north wind there was not a single Painted Lady to be found. I have had three regulars and even a group of eleven on the Sedum one warm day. A few Monarchs have been a pleasure to see once again. Love your informative blog, Mary, and always read it with great pleasure. Shelagh in Vermont.

    September 29, 2017 at 4:46 am

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