23rd August 2019

Late summer butterflies, like the ones in the drawing, need our flowers as much as those in the spring and early summer. This year is one of the rare years for a mass migration of beautiful Painted Lady butterflies. These amazing insects don’t overwinter here in any form. They migrate from North Africa, travelling about 100 miles a day and can reach as far north as the Shetlands. They need the nectar of Lavender, Knapweed, Thistles, Sedum and other late flowers to fill up on the way, much as we fill up a car at a petrol station. While we usually get some Painted Ladies through the country, a mass migration involves far more– the last mass migration was in 2009 when an estimated 11 million Painted Lady butterflies came and you should see them wherever you are in the UK this year.

Painted Lady

Painted Lady

. Conditions: Very warm and dry. Temperature: Max 27 Min 15C.

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10th September 2018

The Painted Lady Butterfly is one of our largest species, and its capacity for strong flight is  truly extraordinary. They migrate every year  from their native home in North Africa. Some individuals arriving here from late May may have flown all the way, while others will have bred in Europe and it is the second or third generation which we see. This amazing Butterfly can breed several generations while here, and can fly as far as Shetland and to our highest mountains. The Painted Lady is the only Butterfly that reaches Iceland. However, it cannot survive our winters, and while a few may fly back to Europe, most die here by autumn. These, seen this week, are fading from their bright colour when they first emerge. Feeding here on Buddleia, their favourite food plant is Thistle. I have seen very few this year- it is thought that they migrate north when a critical level of density in their population in North Africa is reached, and sometimes this is in their thousands. Conditions: Still and grey. Temperature: Max 17 Min 15 C.

Painted Lady

Painted Lady in flight

Painted Lady feeding. Its long proboscis allows it to feed on the tubes of Buddleia

Painted Lady, fading by late summer.

2nd September 2015

Returning to the beautiful Painted Lady (Vanessa Cardui) which I have covered before. Another long-distance migrant flying in from North Africa and the middle East, an incredible feat for a delicate butterfly, this species cannot survive our winters but spreads during summer as far north as the Shetlands. This year isn’t one of the bumper years, when millions can arrive on our shores and breed, but several can still be seen feeding on nectar-rich flowers. They are bright orange-pink colour when young, so some of the must be quite newly hatched, since adults fade quite quickly to a light tan-colour. Easily mistaken at a glance for Red Admirals, they are worth keeping an eye open for and I love the eye patterns on their underwings, brighter in females. Conditions: Sunny intervals with increasing cloud and less breeze. Temperature: Max 14- Min 10c.

Feeding on nectar

Feeding on nectar

The Painted Lady is stronger coloured when young

The Painted Lady is stronger coloured when young

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Female Painted Lady

Female Painted Lady

8th June 2015

The Painted Lady– it’s not surprising that this specimen is rather tatty as the Painted Lady migrates here from North Africa and Europe from March onwards, and by mid-summer, in a good year, it can have reached Shetland and Orkney! It is the only Butterfly ever recorded in Iceland, which shows what a strong flyer it is. It cannot overwinter in this country but in some years, as in 2009, thousands and thousands arrive. I only saw one while I was walking along a grassy path in Catsfield today, and it was feeding solely on Buttercups. Travelling back to Sheffield tomorrow- I wonder if the Painted Lady’s will have got there before us! Conditions: Sunny most of the day. Temperature: Max 17- Min 8cIMG_9581IMG_9730IMG_9588

Painted Lady- the pearly undersides are beautiful, and good camouflage

Painted Lady- the pearly undersides are beautiful, and good camouflage