For the last couple of days I've heard that there have been large number of Painted Ladies just across the Channel. This morning there were at least four feeding on the Red Valerian I mentioned two days ago.
The Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui, is a long-distance migrant, which causes the most spectacular butterfly migrations observed in Britain and Ireland.
Each year, it spreads northwards from the desert fringes of North Africa, the Middle East, and central Asia, recolonizing mainland Europe and reaching Britain and Ireland. In some years it is an abundant butterfly, frequenting gardens and other flowery places in late summer.
This one isn't feeding, it seems to be resting on some Privet, next to the Red Valerian flowers.
I think that the upper-wings of the Painted Lady are beautiful, but the under-wings are no less so. In this picture you can see the proboscis probing a tiny flower for nectar, the only food the adults eat. The caterpillars use a wide range of food-plants, with thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.) being preferred in Britain and Ireland. Mallows (Malva spp.), Common Nettle (Urtica dioica), Viper's-bugloss (Echium vulgare), and various cultivated plants also have been recorded as larval food-plants here.
The Red Valerian has been atracting other species which I'll feature tomorrow!