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Favorable Temperatures Lead To Increase in Painted Lady Butterflies

29 Sep 2017, 4:06 pm

Have you noticed an influx of these butterflies in your garden over the last few months?

Painted lady butterflies spotted in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in mid September.

Painted lady is the most widespread butterfly on the planet, found on every continent except Antarctica, ” said Dr. Whitney Cranshaw, a professor and extension specialist of entomology at Colorado State University.  “This is a migratory species, which continuously breeds somewhere, and survives winter in the extreme southwest United States and Baja.”

Just like birds fly south for the winter, painted lady butterflies make their migration to warmer climates typically from late summer into fall in search of their food source.

Photo by Mara Koenig, USFWS

“You will see more or less butterflies migrating each year depending on the prior weather conditions (i.e. more rain > more plants > more caterpillars > more adult butterflies),” said Sarah Garrett, a Curatorial Lepidopterist at the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, Colorado.  “From what we have seen the last week it has been a productive summer!”

Painted lady butterflies are often confused with the monarch butterfly.  According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the biggest differences between the two are the size of the wingspan and the difference in pattern.

The monarch butterfly is the larger of the two with a wingspan between three and a half to four inches.  If you look closely, you also will see that the two have different patterns although similar colors (see photos below).  You can read more about the two species on the USFWS blog.

The painted lady butterfly has “eyespots” as well as the color brown on both sides. Photo: Mara Koenig, USFWS
The monarch butterfly has a vein pattern with white spots and orange wings. Photo: Tom Koerner, USFWS

For WeatherNation, I’m Meteorologist Meredith Garofalo





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