Painted ladies

by | May 22, 2023 | Animals, Reflections & Celebrations

   Painted ladies on Hollyhocks has been a common occurrence this week, as the weather continues to warm pleasantly this spring in Utah.  Vanessa cardui is a widespread butterfly in North America baring black, orange and brown patterns on the upper side of the wing with grayish, white, brown, and black on the underside of the wing.  It is often mistaken for a Monarch butterfly at first sight, but with closer inspection it is usually quite easy to tell the difference.  Monarch butterflies have much bolder black and orange markings that remind me of tiger stripes from a distance.  Painted ladies have black, orange, and brown markings that appear as pixelated dots from a distance. Plus, Painted ladies are typically more common than Monarchs in many areas of North America.

     Painted lady’s north western migration is greatly influenced by rainfall especially in the desert where their larval host plants are abundant (mallow and thistle).  Adults enjoy the nectar from zinnias, butterfly bush, anise hyssop, sweet William, scabiosa, marigold, sunflower, and many others.

   Butterflies are so delicate yet resilient. They seem to embody the perfect balance of gentleness, grace and perseverance. Butterflies have their work cut out for them with their migrations, finding food, refuge, and mates, laying their eggs, surviving in all manners of weather and predation.  And they do all of this with paper thin wings and extremely lightweight bodies, all the while inspiring us with their presence to be lighthearted, carefree, hopeful and joyous. 

   What if we could feel light and graceful even when we are doing something challenging?  Rather than muscling our way through difficulty, could we embody the wisdom of the butterfly?  The next time you do something that elicits the “push harder” response, perhaps try going forward with more lightness and grace like the Painted Lady.