A Lovely Lady

Shot of the Month – November 2013

Painted Lady, Vermont - USA (1984) Check out Vanessa, isn’t she lovely?  Actually, it could be a he, I have no way of knowing, but either way, it definitely is a Vanessa.  Perhaps a full introduction is in order.  Please meet Vanessa cardui, her more formal, scientific name.

There is a pretty good chance that you have met “her” before as this is one of the most common butterflies in the world and is found on every continent except Antarctica.

In less formal settings Vanessa is known as The Painted Lady.  In some circles, mainly in Europe, her nickname is the “Cosmopolitan” highlighting her global distribution.

In my image to the left we see the underside of the Painted Lady’s wings. In butterfly lingo this is the ventral side of the wing.  The ventral side is seen when the wings are closed.  When the wings are open we are looking at the dorsal side.

Dorsal = open wings

Ventral = closed wings

On the ventral side the wings have a fascinating camouflage pattern and has 4 colored eye spots.  The eye spots and the pattern markings on the hindwings are designed to draw predators attention away from the butterfly’s head.

painted-lady-butterflyWith wings open, as shown to the right , Vanessa is draped in orange with black and white highlights. (source)

Alas, such beauty is fleeting.

The life cycle of the Painted Lady is typically 2-4 weeks!  In warmer climates they can live longer but rarely do they survive beyond one winter.

Painted Ladies are very popular in elementary schools where students can observe the entire “circle of life” firsthand.  Butterflies go through 4 distinct stages of life:

Egg:  3-5 days

Larva(Caterpillar):  5-10 days

Chrysalis: 7-10 days

Butterfly: 2 weeks

Here is a nice graphic showing the life cycle.

Moral of the Story:  Life is short, get out there and do your part to make it beautiful.

Thanks, Vanessa….