A Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) feeds on the flowers of the Mile-a-Minute (Mikania cordata) bush whilst visiting Singapore!
Some time late last year, when the migration of the birds was in full swing, as they flee the cold weather in the northern hemisphere for the warmer temperatures of the south, the Monarchs were also migrating via their usual and well-charted routes from Canada, to the USA and all the way down to South America.
A much smaller and lesser known migrant also made its way to warmer temperatures. The Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) is described as "the most widespread of all butterflies" and having migratory habits which can rival those of the Monarch. It is one of the most widespread of all butterflies, found on every continent except Antarctica.
The Painted Lady is a pretty Nymphalid, with orange, black and whilte markings on the upperside, whilst the undersides feature a series of cryptic lines mottled with grey patches with submarginal ocelli and a wash of rose on the forewing. It is also known as the Thistle Butterfly or the Cosmopolite.
Its favourite host plant is the thistle (Asteraceae). The species is described to be abundant in the USA, and a website described that "Larvae were so common in the city of Orange (California) that in late April 1973, the city sprayed a vacant lot literally infested with the larvae. The spraying was in response to complaints by homeowners that the larvae were turning swimming pools black with their bodies, in addition to feeding on numerous ornamentals."
The Painted Lady Arrives in Singapore
Three of our ButterflyCircle members were fortunate enough to encounter two pristine specimens of the Painted Lady at different locations in Singapore. One was observed at one of our urban hill parks, whilst the other was spotted at an open wasteland in the north near one of Singapore's minor rivers.
Whilst definitely not as abundant as in its home country, the discovery of the Painted Lady in Singapore was not an unexpected surprise. It was a matter of time before one showed up here, given its reputation for being a renowned 'world traveller'. The two pristine specimens were spotted and photographed, before taking off to their next unknown destinations. How did they appear in Singapore? Were they bred specimens, inadvertently 'imported' with some goods from the west or brought back by some hobbyists?
We will never know. Nevertheless, it was still a pleasure for those of us who were lucky enough to make the encounter with this pretty Lady from the west. We hope she will visit sunny Singapore again soon!
Text by Khew SK ; Photos by Horace Tan, Richard Ong and Sunny Chir
- Garden Butterflies of North America by Rick Mikula
- Field Guide to Butterflies - National Audobon Society by Robert Michael Pyle
- A Field Guide to the Butterflies of Eastern North America by Jeffrey Glassberg