Greetings, !1 Today we're going to learn all about
Painted Ladies, so listen up.
From Butterfly Conservation of the UK:
2003 is shaping up to be a bumper year for the migrant Painted Lady butterfly.
Thousands have already reached our shores from North Africa and continental Europe and have
been basking in the high temperatures reached over recent weeks.
From the Northwest Indiana Times:
CHICAGO (AP) -- Chicago and the surrounding area has been invaded this month
-- by butterflies.
'This is a phenomenon, an extraordinary year,'" said Doug Taron, chief biologist at the Peggy
Scientists can't explain why painted lady butterflies are going through a population boom. But
they say the orange and black insects roughly half the size of a monarch butterfly seem to explode
in number every few years.
The Painted Lady is probably the most widespread butterfly in the world. Like the Monarch
butterfly it resembles, the Painted Lady is known for its travelling and migratory habits. Its
wandering ways have earned it the nickname 'The Cosmopolitan'; it is also known as the 'Thistle'
butterfly after its favourite host plant. In cold climates, you can see Painted Ladies from spring
though early fall. In some warm desert climates, they live all year round.
Wildlife photographer David Element has put photos
of Painted Ladies on the Web. Here is more information about this colourful butterfly:
- Size: 2 - 2 7/8 inches (5.1 - 7.3 cm).
- Colouring: Buff-coloured body. Orange wings with black blotches, black-patterned
margins, and black forewing tips with white spots.
- Where to Find It: Almost everywhere, especially in open or disturbed areas including
gardens, fields, and dunes. In addition to thistle, the Painted Lady prefers nectar from the aster,
cosmos, blazing star, ironweed, and joe-pye weed. It also visits red clover, buttonbush, privet, and
milkweeds. (Painted Ladies in my area seem to love dandelion blossoms.)
- Range: On all continents except Australia and Antarctica2. Occasionally, population explosions in northern
Africa and Mexico will cause massive northward migrations. Reasons for the population explosions
remain unclear. There has been speculation that climatological phenomena such as El
Niño3 may be partly responsible.
For Extra Credit
- Suggest an explanation for El Niño that
doesn't involve Vogons.
- Do male Painted Ladies have gender issues?
The term 'painted ladies' is also applied to Victorian, especially Queen Anne, style houses
painted in multiple colours that highlight their architectural frills and furbelows. Houses built in
this style are typically tall, two and a half to three and half stories in height. Queen Anne houses
are characterized by asymmetrical design, turrets, stained glass, windows of different shapes,
wraparound porches, bay windows, and fish scale shingles and gingerbread bric-a-brac. Painted
Ladies were often built as row
The most famous American examples of this architecture are found in San Francisco, where huge
wooden homes built in the late 19th and early 20th century were painted in rainbow colours to accentuate
their ornate details. The bright colours we see today appear to be authentic: various accounts in
the late 1800s mention bright, even 'garish' colours. And speaking of architecture...
Frances Trollope, mother of the writer Anthony Trollope, came to the United States in the
1820s with the hope of mending her family's fortunes. She was a lady ahead of her time, creating
the forerunner of the modern American department store in Cincinnati, where she planned to sell
imported luxury goods. The spectacular 'Bazaar' included a coffeehouse, an ice cream parlour, a
tearoom, an art gallery, and a ballroom, in addition to the shopping floor. The Bazaar's inventive
architecture mixed Grecian pillars with Gothic windows and a Turkish dome above a rotunda, a
veritable temple of conspicuous consumption. In the end Mrs Trollope was unimpressed with the
city - too few cultural amenities, too many hogs4 - and she viewed its citizens
as rough and uncouth. Not surprisingly, her attitude made her unpopular and helped to doom her
business venture to failure.
'She's no lady. She paints.' My sister and I were strolling through the toy store and had
spotted something called the Victorian Barbie. My sister, who's something of an expert in this,
told me that a well-bred Victorian woman would never use makeup, which was the province of
floosies, trollops, strumpets and other free-thinking females. And here was Barbie, dressed to the
nines in burgundy velvet, her usual vapid expression on her thoroughly-painted little face. At least
the Victorian Barbie was a brunette, so she didn't look quite as vapid as her blonde sisters, who, no
matter what their time or culture, never look like anything other than bimbos.
What is it with Barbie dolls anyway? Little girls (a lot of them, anyway) glom onto the things long
before they're aware of marketing pressure from toymaker Mattel. Must be all the pink.
Not at our house, however; our Barbies led hard lives. They were 'punk' long before punk was a
lifestyle and fashion statement, starting with tattoos and strange haircuts, then moving on to
interesting body-piercings or amputations. Ken didn't fare any better, and he was into
cross-dressing to boot.5 And that was just my sister's and my doing. When our brothers
got into the act, Barbie came into her own as a projectile weapon and truncheon. A naked, headless
Barbie in the hands of an annoyed brother inspired shock and awe and the desire to run for one's
'I will NOT buy you a new doll. I saw what you did to the last one.'
- our exasperated
We were such little stinkers. And we weren't alone, apparently. Barbie has often been the target
of mischief and mayhem, some of which is perpetrated by adults. American humour writer Dave
Barry discovered that you could set your underwear on fire with Rollerblade Barbie and some
hairspray. (My siblings and I were disgusted that we missed that trick.) And Barbie is the bane
of feminists who think she turns girls into namby-pamby little airheads with unrealistic ideas about
the female figure.
In January of this year, toymaker Mattel lost a US Supreme Court appeal over a pop song that
called Barbie a 'blonde bimbo'. The 1997 song 'Barbie Girl', by the Danish group Aqua, includes
the lyrics 'I'm a blonde bimbo in a fantasy world/Dress me up, make it tight, I'm your dolly.'
The court rejected Mattel's claim that the song duped preteen girls into thinking it was an
advertisement for the doll or part of Mattel's official line of Barbie products. Judge Alex Kozinski said that the song was protected by the right to free speech
in the US constitution because it was a parody and a social commentary. 'The parties are advised
to chill,' said the judge.
This was the second case Mattel has lost over Barbie in the last couple years. In February of
2002, a court ruled that an American artist was within his rights to use Barbie dolls in his work.
Some of Tom Forsythe's photographs depicted the doll in sexually compromising positions.
The court said that parody of Barbie was an acceptable activity.
For Extra Credit
- Compare and contrast trollops and
- Do you think that defending Barbie's honour is an apt fate for lawyers?
- Top marks to anyone who can sing 'Barbie Girl'.
- Five points off if you
thought a strumpet was a musical instrument.
More Than You Probably Want to
- The Butterfly Conservation
web site provides information about butterflies and moths in the UK.
- Interested in El Niño? Take a look at the El Niño pages at the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (US) web site.
- For a laugh, try these Barbie
- No, I'm not including a link to Tom Forsythe's photographs. They're on the Web, though, if
longer be the case. See this article
about Painted Ladies in Australia.3El Niño is a disruption of the ocean-atmosphere system in the Tropical Pacific
that affects weather and climate around the globe. Normally, east-to-west winds keep warm water
in the western Pacific, while cold water from deep in the ocean rises to the surface along the South
American Coast. Every few years, the trade winds change, allowing the warm water to move east
where it blocks the rising cold water. This phenomenon is called El Niño. Nobody knows why it
happens.4Cincinnati is often referred to as
Porkopolis, and the city mascot is a flying pig. Really.5So was GI Joe. He looked so cute in Barbie's tube
tops and shorts.