With a wingspan of about 60 millimetres, this attractive butterfly has pale orange forewings with black markings on the upper side and dark brown tips with bold white spots. The underside of the forewing is paler, with tiny blue spots near the edge. The caterpillar (up to 30 millimetres long) is largely black, with branched black or yellowish spines and a broken yellow line on each side.
The most widespread butterfly in the world, the painted lady is found on every continent except Antarctica and South America. It migrates north in spring from North Africa and the Meditarranean. It can be found in open spaces, fields, grasslands and gardens. In Europe, it prefers thistles, nettles and burdock.
Adults visit flowers to gather nectar and can sometimes be seen on rotting fruit. Caterpillars feed mainly on thistles, hiding between leaves that they spin together with silk. When emerging from the chrysalis, the butterfly pumps its wings with fluid to expand them.