The newly hatched butterflies are very vulnerable. Their abdomens are filled with fluid called meconium which they begin to expell soon after emerging. The sight of the red liquid dripping from their bodies can be disturbing, especially to young children who may think the butterflies are bleeding to death. According to the care sheet we received with our catepillars, the liquid is excess fluid that was not needed to fill the butterflies' wing veins.
For their first few hours, the butterflies unfurl and stretch their wings and proboscis (straw-like tongue). Then they flit around and begin feeding from a sugar water soaked cotton ball. As soon as the outdoor temperature reaches a steady 65 degrees or more, we will release the butterflies. Painted ladies are very common, preferring open meadow areas. They also like to feed from thistle plants. Life is short for the painted lady. They will reach adulthood withing 2-4 weeks, during which they will mate and lay eggs. The last time we raised painted ladies, the weather was unsettled and cooler than normal. We ended up keeping the butterflies longer than expected. Within a couple of weeks, mating was occuring and their mesh home was covered with tiny eggs.