I often see this butterfly in my travels, as well as in my backyard. My larest encounter was at Point Reyes National Seashore in California. This insect it is the most widely distributed butterfly in the world.
Males perch and patrol during the afternoon for receptive females. In the western United States males usually perch on shrubs on hilltops, while in my home state of Ohio, males position themselves on bare ground in open areas.
This is sometimes called the “Thistle Butterfly,” because thistle plants are its favorite nectar plant for food. It is also one of the Painted Lady caterpillar’s favorite food plants. What probably owes the global abundance of this creature is that thistle are common and invasive plants.
This butterfly is an irruptive migrant, meaning that it migrates independent of any seasonal or geographic patterns. It can cover a lot of ground, up to 100 miles per day at speeds of nearly 30 miles per hour.
They are a favorite subject of study in elementary school classrooms, and often the caterpillars can be ordered in “grow kits” where they can be raised and after they transform into adults are released.
Though the Painted Lady is one of the most familiar butterflies in the world, found on nearly all continents and in all climates, it’s still nice to come across them, wherever I may happen to be.