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.
. Conditions: Very warm and dry. Temperature: Max 27 Min 15C.
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 in flight
Painted Lady feeding. Its long proboscis allows it to feed on the tubes of Buddleia
Painted Lady, fading by late summer.
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
The Painted Lady is stronger coloured when young
Female Painted Lady