The Painted Lady is a long-distance migrant, which causes the most spectacular butterfly migrations observed in Britain and Ireland.

Each year, it spreads northwards from the desert fringes of North Africa, the Middle East, and central Asia, recolonising mainland Europe and reaching Britain and Ireland. In some years it is an abundant butterfly, frequenting gardens and other flowery places in late summer.

Size and Family

  • Family: Nymphalids
  • Size: Medium
  • Wing Span Range (male to female): 50-56mm

Conservation Status                  

  • Butterfly Conservation priority: Low     
  • European status: Not assessed

Caterpillar Foodplants

A wide range of foodplants may be used with thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.) being preferred in Britain and Ireland. Mallows (Malva spp.), Common Nettle (Urtica dioica), Viper's-bugloss (Echium vulgare), and various cultivated plants also have been recorded as larval foodplants here.



This common and widespread migrant likes dry open areas, but can be seen anywhere in a good year. 


  • Countries: England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales
  • Recorded throughout Britain and Ireland, but numbers vary greatly from year to year
  • Distribution Trend Since 1970’s = +32%

Painted Lady - Iain H Leach

Painted Lady (upperwing)

Painted-Lady (upperwing) by Jim Asher

Painted-Lady (upperwing)

Painted Lady (underwing) - Andrew Cooper

Painted Lady (underwing)

Painted Lady (underwing) by Keith Warmington

Painted Lady (underwing)

Painted Lady (group) by Jim Asher

Painted Lady (group)

Painted Lady (egg) by Jim Asher

Painted Lady (egg)

Painted Lady (caterpillar) by Peter Eeles

Painted Lady (caterpillar)