Painted Lady Butterfly Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

No matter where you live in the world, you may have met a Painted Lady butterfly. This lesson will teach you some cool facts about Painted Lady butterflies, how to recognize them, and how they live.

What are Painted Lady Butterflies?

The world-traveling Painted Lady butterflies are common, medium-sized butterflies with wings that are orange, black and white on top and brown, black, gray and pinkish on the bottom. Their rear wings have a row of five black dots.

Painted Lady butterfly
Painted Lady Butterfly on a Flower

But are these butterflies only female? No way. Painted Lady butterflies aren't just ladies! Even the males are called Painted Ladies because of their colorful wings.

Butterflies All Over

You can find these butterflies on every continent except Antarctica and Australia. They like open fields and meadows, but can live in many different kinds of places like wet swamps and marshes, dry deserts, shady forests, and cold mountains. You'll find them in cities, suburbs and out in the country!

Just like many birds, Painted Ladies migrate, or travel from south to north when the weather warms up, and back south when the weather gets colder!

Their wingspan, or distance between both wingtips, is about two and a half inches.
Painted Lady with Open Wings on a Flower

Painted Ladies travel so much because they're cold-blooded, meaning they are about the same temperature as the air around them. (Your body temperature, on the other hand, is always about the same.) Since they can't put on a coat when it's cold or turn on the air conditioner when it's hot, Painted Ladies need to live where the temperature's always just right.

Starting Out

Painted Lady butterflies, like all insects, start out as eggs. The mother lays her tiny green eggs on flowering plants, including a rude weed known as a thistle. Once the eggs hatch, the black and yellow larva, or caterpillars, come out and begin eating the plants where their mother laid the eggs. It's like an all-you-can-eat buffet!

These caterpillars will eat without stopping and grow to be over one inch long. They will shed their skin several times as they grow because it gets too tight, like trying to wear a shoe that is too small for your foot.

Growing Up Beautiful

After all that growing, caterpillars take a rest during the pupa stage and make a cocoon. They completely close themselves in it, like putting on a pair of comfortable pajamas to crawl under the covers for a long nap.

During this stage, their bodies completely change over a period of one to two months, depending on how warm or cold it is outside. After the change is complete, they will break out of the cocoon as an adult Painted Lady butterfly!

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