Painted Lady Migrations and Outbreaks this Spring

Painted Ladies have been on the move this spring. Their first generation may have gotten started in southern California during the enormous February-April bloom of desert annuals that provided abundant food plants for their caterpillars. Although there didn't seem to be a widespread Painted Lady outbreak across California - instead I received reports of small numbers there for the most part - there have been scattered reports of large outbreaks in the western U.S. and Canada between early April and now. These include:

Nevada southwest of Las Vegas: April 3 - 5, 2017. On April 3 and 4, Painted Ladies were flying from west to east at rates of 5 per minute or more for periods of 4 and 6 hours respectively. Activity had greatly decreased on April 5, with only about 10 spotted during a half-hour period around 10 am.

Medford, Oregon: May 2, 2017. An observer completed a point count of Painted Ladies at 2:30 p.m., observing 168 butterflies per hour flying generally east-southeast to west-northwest (the starting time wasn't mentioned).

Albuquerque, New Mexico: Mid- to late May 2017. Painted Ladies were present in large numbers here since perhaps the middle of May. Hundreds were seen nectaring on a linden tree on May 26.

Alberta, Canada, between Red Deer and Edmonton (south to north) and Alder Flats and Innisfree (west to east): Painted Ladies have been abundant in this area since about June 5, and continued to be as of June 17.

Northwest Iowa, Orange City and near Calumet: June 15. Fresh Painted Ladies were locally abundant in Orange City and also at Iowa State University's Northwestern Research Farm south of Calumet. About 20 were seen within a half hour at each location. Another observation suggested that this abundant population was somewhat localized on June 15. Two other sites near Newell, in west central Iowa about 60 km southeast of Calumet, had only a few or none on the same date. Nor were Painted Ladies present farther east in the Mason City, Eagle Grove, or Ames areas on June 16, although weather conditions were likewise favorable.

If you see Painted Ladies in your area, including larger numbers such as described in the above reports, please report them here or at

Posted by iowabiologist iowabiologist, June 19, 2017 20:55


Have you removed the set of questions when adding observations? I just added an observation. but I can't figure out how to find the more specific questions that I saw before.

Posted by pcrossno about 5 years ago (Flag)

Thank you for sending your report of Painted Lady activity in the Albuquerque area yesterday.

Whether the set of questions (which iNaturalist calls "fields") comes up or not might depend on whether you submitted your observation directly through the project page or through the "...observations/new" data entry page. I checked things to see whether the list of fields was coming up when I submitted through the project page, and it did. Go to the Vanessa Migration Project page and click on the red "Add Observations" bar, and the complete list should come up (That's for next time you submit an observation.).

For the observation you submitted yesterday, open it again, and then go to the list of Projects to the right of your locality information. Vanessa Migration Project should be one of the three listed, and it should have an asterisk in the right end of its box. Click on this asterisk, and in the box that opens, select "Fill out project observation fields." That should open the full list for you to fill out. Once you've entered everything, click the "Save Fields" button at the bottom, and when the fields appear in your observation, save your observation as usual.

Posted by iowabiologist about 5 years ago (Flag)

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