Watch out for the painted ladies
Appeared on Space For Nature on June 11th 2003
Keep an eye out for the colourful painted lady (Vanessa cardui) butterfly in your garden. This year is shaping up to be a bumper year for these migrant butterflies in Britain.
Painted ladies are a very unusual member of the British butterfly fauna in that they are true long distance migrants. Each summer they spread northwards across Europe and into Britain from their winter quarters in North Africa, Central Asian and the Middle East. Some years see more migrants coming to our shores than others. 1996 was a particularly good year and the early indications are that we might have another year to rival that; there are already reports of very large numbers moving through Malta and Spain.
Being a truly wide-ranging migrant, painted ladies can turn up almost anywhere and they are frequent visitors to our gardens during late summer. Any flowery place is likely to attract them, but they are particularly fond of thistles which are a good food-plant for the caterpillars. At the end of the summer the butterflies either die or migrate southwards again. Global warming may make our winters more amenable to them: the first ever confirmed record of an over-wintering painted lady in this country was in 1998.
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