This pretty butterfly is the Painted Lady (Vanessa Cardui), they are sometimes referred to as the Thistle Butterfly or Cosmopolitan Butterfly. Thistle from it's preference of nectaring at these plants, and the fact that the caterpillar uses it as a host. Caterpillars will also be found on a variety (upwards of 100) of plants including hollyhock, mallow and many legumes. Painted Lady's are one of the most widespread butterflies being found almost Worldwide. This has earned them their other common name of Cosmopolitan Butterfly. They are relatively large with almost a 3 inch wingspan. Their coloring is spectacular, with orange and black and white spotting on the forewings, and a row of black spots on the hindwing they are truly a beautiful sight to behold.
Their mating habits vary somewhat depending upon where they are located in the United States. Out west males will typically perch on shrubs located on hillsides to wait for passing females. In the east (which includes Missouri) they will usually land on the ground and wait for receptive females to pass by. After mating, the females will seek their host plant and deposit eggs one at a time on the tops of leaves. The caterpillars will live inside silken nests and feed on the leaves. These butterflies can be found in a wide variety of habitats, including open fields, roadsides, backyard gardens, old dunes and prairies. Although one of the most commonly seen of all butterflies, I never tire of seeing them.