Australian Painted Lady Facts
- This gorgeous Lepidoptera is most frequently referred to by the informative common name of the Australian Painted Lady. It does have a few other general names, though. Those include such diverse terms as the Cosmopolitan and the Thistle Butterfly.
- Within scientific circles, however, it’s much known better by its formal title. Thankfully, that’s an extremely easy title for the layperson to pronounce. That’s because this marvel of Nature and evolution bears the official moniker of Vanessa kershawi.
- It received that name due to the efforts of the Irish zoologist, Sir Frederick McCoy. The noted professional made the first formal acknowledgement of it as a separate and distinct species. That scientifically noteworthy even occurred in 1868.
- It often serves as a source of confusion and conflict among entomologists. That’s true since it’s extremely similar to a much more widely spread species. Many researchers believe it should be considered as only a subspecies of that better-known insect.
- The beautiful Australian Painted Lady appears to be maintaining a population base that’s both stable and sufficient. That pleasant also seems to hold true throughout the entirety of its range. The IUCN, therefore, presently has no listing for it on the Red List.
- It nevertheless faces several possible threats to its existence. In this, it follows the pattern of most species. The majority of these perils stem from the actions of humans. They include such dangers as habitat loss and the increasing effects of climate change.
Australian Painted Lady Physical Description
The visually stunning Australian Painted Lady is a wonder of Nature that capture one’s interest easily. It does so primarily due to its appearance, though. That’s because, all other marvelous aspects aside, it ranks as an approximately average-sized butterfly species.
Interestingly, it differs from many, though not all, related invertebrates. That’s true since it displays no noticeable degree of the physiological characteristic of sexual dimorphism. This results in it being extremely difficult for non-experts to distinguish the genders.
Individuals of both sexes attain an average wingspan of roughly 2 in (5 cm). This actually makes it slightly smaller than the very similar species sharing the same range that leads to the previously mentioned issue. It’s among the main reasons some consider it separate.
The elongated body of this remarkaable Lepidoptera shows entirely an extremely dark brown, almost black. Uniquely, though, the tips of the antennae display a bright white at the tip. Like many related creatures, that body possesses a covering of fine, soft hairs.
It’s the wings of the Australian Painted Lady that garner the most appreciation, however. The background color consists of a brown shade. This, though, turns to a brick-red shade, crossed by black bands. Its forewings show black, with four white dots and a white bar.
Meanwhile, the hindwings present four round eyespots at the base. These also show a blue center for several. The underwings of the insect, though, display an almost identical pattern. However, the base of the underwings show a brick red color, instead of the brown.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Arthropoda
- Class: Insecta
- Order: Lepidoptera
- Family: Nymphalidae
- Genus: Vanessa
- Species: V. kershawi
Australian Painted Lady Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
The startling beauty known as the Australian Painted Lady evolved as native to a somewhat limited section of the globe. That immediate likely won’t surprise anyone, given its name. That’s because, as that name implies, it’s mainly native to the continent of Australia.
Yet that’s not the sole location for this winged wonder. Perhaps riding the prevalent westerly winds of the region, it’s also present on several islands in the area. Most prominently, that includes New Zealand. It’s currently unknown if the insect ever appeared anywhere else.
This impressive invertebrate evolved very generalized habitat requirement. Essentially, it appears anywhere in its range with the proper conditions. Primarily, this consists of the presence of large quantities of plants with nectar producing blooms to feed on.
Intriguingly, in heavily populated areas, this often consists of backyard gardens and parks. This occurs due to the fragmentation of their natural feeding grounds by human urbanization. Away from such areas, however, it often frequents sites such as open meadows.
The Australian Painted Lady possesses an ecology very similar to related species. Very often the same plant serves as food for the adult, and host plant for the larvae. Common examples include such plants Banskia, Bottlebrush, Native Finger Lime, as well as Eucalyptus.
Following mating, the females lay their eggs on appropriate foliage, usually in the center of the leaf. These hatch in as little as three days. The caterpillar is only active at night, and spends most of its time feeding. The entire lifecycle of the insect averages 53 days!