Vanessa kershawi (McCoy, 1868)
Australian Painted Lady
(erroneously: Cynthia kershawii)
NYMPHALINAE ,   NYMPHALIDAE ,   PAPILIONOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley

Vanessa kershawi
(Photo: courtesy of Merlin Crossley)

The Caterpillar is brown with two pale yellow lines along each side and is covered in rows of branched spines.

Vanessa kershawi
(Photo: courtesy of Laura Levens, Upper Beaconsfield)

The head may be brown or black. The caterpillar grows to a length of about 3 centimetres.

Vanessa kershawi
(Photo: courtesy of Laura Levens, Upper Beaconsfield)

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 :

  • Winged Everlasting ( Ammobium alatum ),
  • Strawflower ( Bracteantha bracteata ),
  • Yellow Buttons ( Chrysocephalum apiculatum ),
  • Rice Flower ( Chrysocephalum semipapposum ),
  • Everlastings ( Helichrysum species), and
  • Western Sunray ( Rhodanthe chlorocephalum ),

    and the introduced :

  • Capeweed ( Arctotheca calendula ),
  • Scotch Thistle ( Onopordum acanthium ), and

    and has also been found on

  • Lavender ( Lavendula angustifolia, LAMIACEAE ).

    Vanessa kershawi
    (Photo: courtesy of Laura Levens, Upper Beaconsfield)

    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.

    Vanessa kershawi
    (Photo: courtesy of Ted Cadwallader)

    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.

    Vanessa kershawi
    (Photo: courtesy of Ian McMillan, Imbil, Queensland)

    Beneath, the fore wing is the same as above, except that it is paler in colour. The underside of each hind wing is brown and cream, with a row of faint subterminal eyespots. The wingspan is about 5 cms.

    Vanessa kershawi
    mating pair
    (Photo: courtesy of Merlin Crossley)

    Note that the adults have only four legs, and have a long proboscis with which they can suck nectar from flowers.

    Vanessa kershawi
    (Photo: courtesy of Bruce Anstee, Riverstone, Sydney)

    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.

    Vanessa kershawi
    (Photo: courtesy of Fred Swindley, Sydney)

    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:

  • Christmas Island,
  • Indonesia,
  • New Zealand,

    and including Australia, in

  • Northern Territory,
  • Queensland,
  • New South Wales,
  • Victoria,
  • Tasmania,
  • South Australia, and
  • Western Australia.


    Further reading :

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 2, pp. 579-580.


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    (updated 9 May 2010, 13 December 2013)