Painted Lady

Vanessa cardui

This species is the least common of the Vanessa sp. (which include the American Lady and Red Admiral) in Wisconsin. I did not see any of this species in 1999 or 2000, and I usually see only single individuals of this species in a day. In September of 2003, a group migrated into central Wisconsin and I saw 35 of them on September 20, most nectaring in flower gardens in town.

Weekly sightings for Painted Lady

Identifying characteristics

Above, the Painted Lady is an orange butterfly, with a black apex with white spots in the forewing, and thick dark lines in the forewing. Below, this species has four small circular spots on the hindwing that are much harder to see than the two larger spots of the American Lady.

Similar species

The Painted Lady is very similar to the American Lady. Below, this species has four small spots on the hindwing, while the American Lady has two larger spots. Above, the Painted Lady has thicker black lines in the forewing, while the American Lady has thinner black lines and therefore has a more open appearance.


Found in a variety of open habitats including old fields, meadows, disturbed areas and roadsides.


There are usually two broods, and this species can be expected from May through October.


This species, like the American Lady, varies greatly in abundance from year to year, but it is found throughout Wisconsin and is often seen singly nectaring on flowers.

Early Painted Lady Sightings

Date County Reported by
Apr 4, 2012 Milwaukee Judith Huf
Apr 8, 2017 Crawford John Davis
Apr 9, 2017 Dane Beth Stetenfeld
Apr 10, 2001 Milwaukee Arlene Kaufman
Apr 15, 2017 Dane Beth Stetenfeld


Map showing sighting locations for Painted Lady
Map key
Painted LadyClick to enlarge

Wautoma, Waushara Co., WI. September 16, 2003.

Painted LadyClick to enlarge

Wautoma, Waushara Co., WI. September 16, 2003.