National Sunflower Association - link home
About NSA Join NSA Contact Us Facebook YouTube
All About Sunflower


Health & Nutrition

Sunflower Seed and Kernel

Sunflower Oil


Banded Sunflower Moth

Sunflower Moth

Video Clips




Banded Sunflower Moth


Headclipper Weevil

Longhorned Bettle


Palestriped Flea Beetle

Red and Gray Seed Weevils

Sunflower Beetle

Sunflower Bud Moth

Sunflower Moth

Sunflower Seed Maggot

Sunflower Stem Weevil

Thistle Caterpiller

Wire Worms

Insect Supplements


Approved Chemicals


Growth Stages


Production Resource Books


Yield Trials/Crop Survey

Crop Insurance

Equipment Buy/Sell

Calendar of Events

Media Center

Photo Gallery

Sunflower Statistics

International Marketing


Meal/Wholeseed Feeding

Sunflower Magazine



Daily Market News
Sign Up for Newsletter
Online Catalog
Online Directory
Google Search
Printer Friendly Version
You Are Here Growers > Insects > Thistle Caterpiller

Thistle Caterpillar

Painted Lady Butterfly
Thistle Caterpillar (Painted Lady)
Vanessa cardui (Linnaeus)

Description: The body of the adult is about 1 inch long with a wingspan of about 2 inches. The upper wing surfaces are brown with red and orange mottling and white and black spots. Each hind wing has a row of four distinct and obscure eyespots. Eggs are small, spherical and white. The larvae are brown to black and spiny, with a pale yellow stripe on each side. Mature larvae are 1.25 to 1.5 inches long.

Painted Lady Butterfly larva
Life Cycle: It is indigenous to the southern U.S. and migrates annually to the northern region including Canada where it breeds. It returns to the south for overwintering. Eggs are laid on Canada thistle, wild and cultivated sunflower and a number of other host plants. Larvae feed on sunflower in late June/early July. Webbing is formed around the larvae. This insect is multi-generational.

Percent Defoliation of Sunflower leaves.
Scouting Method: An X pattern should be used counting 20 plants per sampling site to determine percent defoliation. Infestations will often be concentrated where Canada thistle is abundant.

Economic Threshold: The threshold is 25 % defoliation if the larvae are less than 1.25 inches long. If the majority of larvae are 1.25 to 1.5 inches long, most of the feeding damage has occurred and control is not advised.

Management: Damage from this insect is usually not economic. There have been instances where spot spraying within a field has been warranted.

Photos: Visit the Photo Gallery.

For further information, click on the links below. Another resource about Insects can be found in the Archive section of The Sunflower magazine.

Source: NDSU Extension Bulletin 25 Sunflower Production, NDSU Extension Service, September 2007

Additional Documents

High Plains Sunflower Production Handbook (document) File Size: 1518 kb

Download Adobe Acrobat Reader
High Plains Sunflower Production Handbook

NDSU Extension Bulletin 25 - Revised 9/2007 (document) File Size: 5461 kb

Download Adobe Acrobat Reader
NDSU Extension Bulletin 25 - Revised 9/2007

Top of the Page

copyright 2016 National Sunflower Association