Painted lady butterfly

I heard about this on BBC this morning - but now I see they want more:

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Nicely placed in the new In the News category (not easy to find). Thanks M

I have seen a lot of painted ladies this year already, seen them every time I have been out recently, also earlier in the year. BUT they have all been very tatty ones, often difficult to tell which species it is as they look so grey and warn. This is quite opposite to the last big outbreak when they were nice fresh ones and all moving very fast in one direction.

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I want to know how they get back to Europe for the next generation?

The answer to that is that they don’t or perhaps a few may try. Migrants arrive here from March to June and breed (these are the tatty ones). A new generation emerges around August (these are the colourful pristine ones). The species cannot survive our winters currently. We are then reliant on another migration next year. If you believe in Global Warming, then a consequence may be that the Painted Lady will one day be able to survive our milder winters, who knows ?


I saw a few of these in late May to early June here, quite far north. They were lively, bright and un- or low-worn. They looked so fresh I was convinced they were emergents. Everyone told me it was impossible. We had no snow, very few frosts and a very mild winter.
Distribution is a bit surprising (none in Greenland though) the two for Svalbard are 7 July 1978 The earliest dates each year, combined with winter climate and known mass migration for the same year, may provide some evidence of spring emergents

The earliest GBIF ORKNEY record seems to be 3 May 1997
My picture is of a June 2019 specimen
The earliest for this block is 20 April 2002 (Scotland west coast)
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I hoped for a better record in iSpot
but there is a potential 2020 emergent here

From a quick project
The earliest is 12 March 2107 (NO PHOTO)
Eariest reliable one 4 April 2017
Was 2017 a spectacular year?

A happy story - Chris.


I think they migrate by quite high up (so unlike Red Admiral we do not see them heading south). If I recall correctly this was only discovered in the last few years - the previous theory was that those that got to Britain essentially produced a doomed generation that just died out.

Wikipedia has it… The Radar Entomology Unit at Rothamsted Research provided evidence that autumn migrations take place at high altitude, which explains why these migrations are seldom witnessed.

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Thanks - David
I’m still looking here - saw something fluttering at Lewisham on Friday, but wasn’t able to follow up.

Red Admiral or Painted Lady? Here is an observation from July 2016, Notpop initially identified this Catetpillar as a Red Admiral before adding a Painted Lady Id. As yet, no one has added an agreement to either Id.
All sorted - thanks

Now that the buddleias are flowering in my garden, dozens and dozens of Painted Ladies are visiting each day and they are being ambushed by Blue Tits. I also spotted two cats lurking under the bushes this morning and they too were snatching any butterflies unfortunate enough to land within their reach. (I’ve chased the cats away but they will be back!). Wondering if the record numbers of Painted Ladies will, in turn, mean Blue Tits and other birds will have a good year too.

This Painted Lady is now agreed as Likely

Many thanks for letting me know!