Australian Painted Lady
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
Tribe - NYMPHALINI
Fitzroy Falls, Wollongong, NSW, Australia
© David Fischer
Vanessa comprises of about 20 species
worldwide. The genus is divided into 2 groups - the Painted Ladies and
the Red Admirals.
There are 3
Vanessa species found in Australia: the
Yellow Admiral itea, the Painted Lady
cardui and the Australian Painted Lady
kershawi. In New Zealand there are two
species: itea and the endemic New
Zealand Red Admiral gonerilla.
Painted Lady species have a similar pattern of pinkish-orange, black
and white on the upperside, and have cryptic undersides marbled in
olive and grey, with a row of post-median ocelli of varying sizes on
The Australian Painted Lady Vanessa kershawi
can easily be mistaken for its cosmopolitan relative
Vanessa cardui. In
kershawi however 3 of the ocelli on the
hindwings have prominent blue centres, and the hindwings also have a
blackish apex that in confluent with the 4th ( upper ) ocellus.
is found throughout most of Australia. It occurs as a regular
breeding migrant in lowland areas of New Zealand but does not
survive winters there.
© Tony Moore
kershawi is strongly migratory in behaviour and can
consequently be found in almost any habitat. During spring the
butterflies migrate south in large numbers from the northern states
to the south. In 1889 the migration was so large that trains were
unable to generate enough traction due to the vast number of
butterflies crushed while resting on the tracks.
The egg is laid singly on the underside
of a leaf of the foodplant.
The caterpillar when fully grown is greyish-green with paler stripes
along the back and sides. It is adorned with dorsal, lateral and
sub-lateral branched spikes. It lives within a silken web, which it
expands as it develops. The foodplants include
Helichrysum and less often other genera
of Asteraceae. The chrysalis is formed inside a large loosely webbed
silk shelter. It is pale brown or reddish brown with dark markings and
is spangled with small silver or gold spots.
The adults assemble on hilltops where courtship and copulation take
place. On plains they assemble at the top of trees. Both sexes have an
extremely rapid and direct flight. They usually remain at the
emergence site for a day or two before dispersing or migrating.
© David Fischer