Painted Lady migration to UK

Painted Lady Butterfly Sussex

Painted Lady Butterfly

This lovely lady has been in our garden most of the day. Which is pretty incredible when you consider how far she’s travelled!

She behaved really well for the camera, but if you look closely you’ll see her wings are a bit damaged. No surprise when you consider her journey over the last few weeks.

The Painted Lady is one of nature’s most extraordinary migrants. Every spring, these gorgeous butterflies fly up from Morocco to the UK. An incredible journey of over 1,500 miles; crossing the Med, up through Spain, right across France and then a leap across the English Channel. Some of them continue north, heading to Scotland – with some migrants even reaching Iceland! That’s pretty good going when you consider she only weighs half a gram.

But here’s something even more remarkable… Painted Ladies fly with aeroplanes, at altitudes of around 1km – taking advantage of high winds that speed them on their way at more than 30mph. How on earth do they make it?!

After they arrive in our meadows and gardens, Painted Ladies lay their eggs on thistles. The caterpillars soon pupate, with adult butterflies emerging from July. The new adults then head south, making the return journey that their parents made from North Africa.

In 2009, breeding conditions for the Painted Lady in North Africa were perfect. Literally millions of butterflies migrated north to British shores. It’s not the same every year… Some years there are very few sightings.

Recording your sightings of Painted Lady butterflies is really important, if you see a Painted Lady let the folks at the Butterfly Conservation website know about it.

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