Painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui)


The painted lady butterfly is found throughout the world.  It is a fairly common species and at times hundreds can be seen migrating across the country.  After hatching from a small, pale green egg, the larva pulls the edges of a leaf together and begins feeding within.  After several molts (usually five), the larva hangs upside down and prepares to pupate.  At this time the quiescent larva (known as a prepupa) is developing into a chrysalis (pupa).  After 24 hours, the caterpillar's skin splits and the chrysalis, which has formed under the skin, wiggles free.  Within about four hours the chrysalis hardens.  The adult emerges in 7 to 10 days.  After emergence, the adult must expand its wings and allow them to harden for a couple of hours before flying.

Availability: These need to be ordered and will be available after spring break.

Housing: You will receive a vial with eggs and enough food to last through the larval development.  Set the vial in a well-lighted area where the temperature remains between 72 and 77 degrees F.  Do not place the vial in direct sunlight.  When the larvae hatch place a small scoopful of food near the larvae.  Close enough from them to find quickly but not directly on top of them.  Add new scoopfuls of food when the last has gotten mostly eaten.  Do not add too much at once or it will dry out and the larvae are unable to eat dry food.  In 10 to 20 days, the larvae will crawl to the top of the vial and hang from the filter paper.  After the chrysalids have developed (in one or two days), tape the filter paper with the insects attached to the roof of a cage (e.g., empty covered terrarium, large jar).  You should have a stick or piece of cardboard for the butterflies to climb on while their wings expand fully.  At room temperature the butterflies should emerge 7 to 10 days later. 

Food: Larval medium will be provided with the larvae, and no additional food or water will be necessary for development.  Adults can be fed a 5% sugar solution.  Fill a small tube with this solution and stuff a cotton ball or rolled up tissue in the opening as a wick for the adults to feed from.