Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 2 - 2¾ inches (5.1 - 7.3 cm). Upperside is orange-brown with darker wing bases; forewing has black patch and white bar on leading edge; the hindwing row of 5 small black spots sometimes has blue scales. Underside has a black, brown, and gray pattern with 4 small eyespots.

ID Tip: Four or five small eyespots on undersurface of hindwing.

Egg: Small light green, barrel-shaped eggs are laid singly on host plant.

Caterpillar: Variable in color: yellow-green with black mottling to charcoal black with cream mottling.  Covered with several rows of light colored, branched spines.

Chrysalis: Beige with a hint of lavender.  There are many yellowish pointed bumps on the body.  Attached upside down on a substrate.

Painted Ladies are supremely adaptable, living throughout the continental United Sates as well as every continent except Antarctica. Their habitats are varied and their list of potential host plants is long.  This species is so adaptable that its caterpillars will even eat an artificial diet, enabling them to be raised in thousands of homes and classrooms without the use of a single plant.

Adaptability has its limits, and Painted Ladies' intolerance of freezing weather means that every year they must recolonize Alabama from northern Mexico.  Large eruptions may coincide with abundant spring rains in their western homes, but in many years, Alabamians are lucky to see a Painted Lady. 

Distribution and Abundance

A dot on the county map indicates that there is at least one documented record of the species within that county. In some cases, a species may be common throughout the county, in others it may be found in only a specific habitat. The High Count information shows the highest numbers recorded for this species as well as when and where they occurred.

The sightings bar graphs depict the timing of flight(s) within each of three geographic regions. Place your cursor on a bar within the graph to see the number of individuals recorded during that period.

The abundance calendar displays the total number of individuals recorded within each week of the month. Both the graphs and the calendar are on based data collection that began in 2000.

The records analyzed here are only a beginning. As more data is collected, these maps and graphs will paint a more accurate picture of distribution and abundance in Alabama. Submit your sightings to

Sightings in the following counties: Autauga, Baldwin, Bibb, Blount, Calhoun, Chambers, Cherokee, Clarke, Cleburne, Colbert, Conecuh, Cullman, Dallas, DeKalb, Elmore, Escambia, Etowah, Hale, Jackson, Jefferson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Lee, Limestone, Lowndes, Madison, Marshall, Mobile, Monroe, Morgan, Perry, Pickens, Randolph, Shelby, St. Clair, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Washington

  • Map Symbol for Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Map Symbol for Semi-Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Map Symbol for Old Sightings Sightings more than 10 years ago

High count(s):

  • 24 - Madison - 9/27/2017
  • 10 - Jefferson - 9/16/2001
  • 10 - Tuscaloosa - 9/30/2001
County Distribution Map

View county names by moving the mouse over a county or view a map with county names

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1 1 1 3 1 1 2 2 3 8 4 2 5 1 4 14 8 13 18 31 47 20 42 31 41 26 96 30 38 30 17 20 22 6 6 5


A wide variety of open areas, including gardens

Host and Nectar Plants

A wide variety of plants from the Aster family, Mallow family, and Pea family are reported. Thistles (Cirsium spp.) are considered favorites throughout much of range and have been verified in Alabama.

For more information about these plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the links above.

Landscaping Ideas

Painted Ladies are avid nectarers and frequent nectar-rich flowers that include ironweed, Joe-Pye Weed, milkweeds, asters, and blazing stars.  Include these late summer and fall blooming flowers in your landscape since this is when Painted Ladies are typically encountered in Alabama.