Seeing one butterfly is enough to make us giddy, so the swarms of millions of painted lady butterflies currently flying at speeds of 25 mph from southeastern California to the Pacific Northwest and Canada for the spring season are just blowing our minds.
The painted ladies are cousins to the monarch butterfly, and are colored orange, white, and black. The population explosion this spring is due to the heavy rainfalls in the desert of northern Mexico and southeastern California and the flower blooms that ensued. Arthur Shapiro, professor in the Department of Evolution and Ecology at UC Davis, explained to the Los Angeles Times, “The more plants, the more butterflies. So any year you have a real big bloom in the desert is potentially a big year for Painted Ladies.” Such large numbers of painted ladies had not been seen since 2005.
People on the butterfly flight path, including Los Angeles, have reported sightings of the swarms. Painted ladies fly at eye level, so they are easy to observe.
Shapiro explained that the migration should last another week or two before the beautiful insects make it out of the state to cooler climates. The painted ladies will fly back to the deserts in the fall.