Painted Lady summer

In a once in a decade phenomenon, numbers of painted lady butterflies in the UK have reached record numbers as tens of thousands of these insects arrive in the UK to breed.

Whilst painted ladies are a regular sight across the UK during the summer months, around every ten years or so there is a sudden boom in numbers, known as a ‘painted lady summer’ . The last major event in 2008 saw numbers peak at 11 million butterflies,  and 2019 looks set to be another record.

Painted lady in the undergrowth



Painted lady among garden flowers


Close up of a painted lady


Painted ladies migrate from northern Africa and the Mediterranean, arriving on our shores to find a mate and seek out thistles, the plants on which they prefer to lay their eggs.

Painted lady on a thistle


A painted lady caterpillar munching through leaves


It is thought that an abundance of food and favourable winds across Europe earlier in the year have given the butterflies a helping hand on their epic migration. These tiny, fragile creatures are truly remarkable, capable of flying up to 100 miles per day at speeds of up to 30mph!

By the time they reach the UK however the journey has taken it’s toll on many of the painted ladies, who are looking far from their best. Their colours are muted and wings tattered from their exhausting journey as seen in this individual below.

A faded painted lady basking on the ground


Have you seen any painted ladies in your area? Remember to log your sightings with the Big Butterfly Count before 11th August!


All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography 2019 ©

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. I have yet to see any in my area This year, but this last week I have been travelling around Scotland and finally saw some painted ladies!!


  2. Claire Stott says:

    That’s great news. They should start spreading north now, hopefully this bad weather doesn’t have an impact on them!


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