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Painted Lady Butterfly

Martin Chester (June)

Whilst enjoying the recent spell of warm weather, I realised we had some visitors in the garden all the way from Africa. We're lucky enough to have a large area of 'wild garden' and this beauty was soaking up the last rays of the sun atop a wild, red 'Valerian' flower.

Painted ladies do not hibernate in Britain; instead they migrate to and from northern Africa. They can arrive in early spring, but this year (since late May) we have seen a record migration.
Females lay their small, green eggs on a range of species, such as nettles and mallows, but thistles are the general favourite. When the caterpillars hatch they begin to eat the underside of the leaf. As they grow, each constructs a tent of folded leaves fastened with silk. Caterpillars pupate and remain suspended in a large tent of leaves until the adults emerge in the late summer. The whole British population dies or emigrates to Africa in the autumn.

This years record breaking migration has attracted much media attention, and Butterfly conservation reports that:
Scientists have been predicting an unusually large migration since late winter. The butterflies originate from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, where heavy winter rains allowed good germination of the caterpillar food-plants. A Spanish researcher, Constanti Stefanescu had reported seeing hundreds of thousands emerging in mid February and beginning their long flight north. They were seen in large numbers in Spain during April and a few weeks later in France.

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