Painted Lady butterflies migrating through NYC


Painted lady butterflies–kind of a runtish, drab cousin of the monarch–are migrating through New York City. Look for mobs of the smallish orange and brown butterflies on cherry trees. (Update: They may also be Red Admirals,  Gothamist says)

One tree on First Street and Prospect Park West had hundreds of the butterflies, which migrate from Mexico, flitting around them last night. We went back to check what seemed to be the roost this morning. Nothing.

On the Prospect Park Audubon bird walk this afternoon, another woman said her backyard cherry was also swarmed with the little butterflies last night.

The painted ladies seem to be having a great year, thanks to wet weather in Mexico. KCET in San Diego reported last month that their area was seeing huge numbers owing to the bumper crop of “thistles and cheeseweeds.” The Urban Dictionary says that’s marijuana, but what they’re really talking about is a plant that looks like rhubarb, but without the red stems, and grows in vacant lots. You can see why they like NYC.

Even though the painted lady lives nearly everywhere in the world, we’re still not clear on the details of its annual migration, Everett D. Cashatt of the Illinois State Museum says. The Iowa State entomology department is tracking them. But they’re not supposed to stop much, so yesterday may have been our big, peak day.

Their more spectacular and easily recognized cousins, the Monarchs, are also plowing through the latitudes of New York and Chicago in the last few weeks, according to the citizen scientist map at

Read more about butterfly migration

raptorowl Where to SEE HAWKS, OWLS & OTHER RAPTORS

Related posts:


2 comments to Painted Lady butterflies migrating through NYC

  • […] Different types of moths are attracted in different ways. The showy and popular Monarchs and Swallowtails go to flowers like Buddleia (butterfly bush) or milkweed. The biggest North American moths, like the Prometheus, don’t eat at all; they only have vestigal mouth organs and survive on energy gathered as a caterpillar. Sphinx moths drink from hummingbird feeders. The mung only draws the moths that would normally eat sap on a tree, but, it also lures butterflies during the day.: Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis) or Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma), Red Admirals. […]

  • jim elkin

    The red admiral is a close relative but a different species flying with the painted ladies. Check for identification.