William Kershaw's Painted Lady
(erroneously: Cynthia kershawii)
NYMPHALINAE , NYMPHALIDAE , PAPILIONOIDEA
(Photo: courtesy of Merlin Crossley, Melbourne, Victoria)
This species was named in honour of William Kershaw, a taxidermist at the National Museum (now Museum Victoria).
The Caterpillar is brown with two pale yellow lines along each side and is covered in rows of branched spines.
The head may be brown or black. The caterpillar grows to a length of about 3 centimetres.
The caterpillar hides by day in a curled leaf or at the foot of the foodplant, feeding at night. It feeds on a number of herbaceus plants from the Daisy family ( ASTERACEAE ) including the Australian natives :
and the introduced :
and has also been found on
The pupa is brown, with darker markings. These may have a metallic silver or gold appearance, and there are four pairs of metallic dots on the wings. It is suspended vertically from a cremaster on the underside of foodplant leaf. The pupal duration is about two weeks in summer in Melbourne.
The adult butterflies have a wing span around 5 cms. The adult males and females are similar in appearance. The fore wing above is black with orange-red markings, and has four white dots near the apex, and a white bar running inward from the costa. The hind wing above is orange with three or four blue-centred eyespots arranged along a subterminal line.
Beneath, the forewing is the same as above, except that it is paler in colour. The underside of each hindwing is brown and cream, with a row of faint subterminal eyespots. The wingspan is about 5 cms.
Note that the adults have only four legs, and have a long proboscis with which they can suck nectar from flowers.
The female lays her green eggs singly on a leaf of a food plant. She settles on a leaf, positions herself carefully, then deposits the egg in the centre of the leaf. It is easy to find the eggs once this behaviour is understood. The eggs we have taken have hatched in about three days.
The whole life cycle is fifty three days in summer in Melbourne. The butterfly is notable for its migrations during late winter and early spring from northern regions on the east coast of Australia towards the south-west, particularly in the Sydney area.
The species occurs across the west Indian Ocean to the east Pacific Ocean, including:
and including Australia, in
Further reading :
Michael F. Braby,
Butterflies of Australia,
CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 2, pp. 579-580.
The Australian Representative of Cynthia cardui,
Annals and Magazine of Natural History,
Volume 4, Part 1 (1868), p. 76.
(updated 9 May 2010, 13 December 2013, 17 March 2015)