Date: March 13, 2019 09:50AM
Into the millions. It's the largest migration of butterflies to occur since 2005. The rains this year have helped to spur the increase of the butterfly population, and they're bursting in color all over southern California as they wind their way up north.
"The migration itself is nothing new. Painted Ladies set off from their wintering grounds in the Mojave and Colorado deserts of southeastern California as winter gives way to spring. They travel roughly the same path every year, flying northwest to Sacramento en route to Oregon, Washington and beyond. (They’ve been spotted as far north as Alaska.)
What’s unusual this year is the number of two- to three-inch butterflies making the journey. Scientists say there haven’t been this many Painted Ladies traversing the state since 2005, when the population climbed to about 1 billion.
“When they are scarce nobody notices them,” said Art Shapiro, an ecologist at UC Davis who has been tracking butterflies in the state for nearly 50 years. “When they are abundant, everyone notices.”
James Danoff-Burg, the conservation director at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert, encountered a pack of butterflies while riding a bike through La Quinta last week.
“They were flying parallel to me, just bobbing along as I rode past the date palms,” he said. “It was absolutely magical. I felt like a Disney princess.”
The Painted Lady explosion is a welcome exception to California’s current butterfly crisis. The number of butterflies in the state has been in decline for decades, reaching historic lows in 2018, according to research conducted by Shapiro and others.
“It was a terrible — perhaps even catastrophic — butterfly year at all elevations and no, we don’t know why,” Shapiro wrote in a somber report....
Scientists say the reason for this year’s rebound can be summed up in one word: rain. And more specifically, rain in the desert.
“The more plants, the more butterflies,” Shapiro said. “So any year you have a real big bloom in the desert is potentially a big year for Painted Ladies.”https://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-butterflies-desert-explosion-20190312-story.html
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/14/2019 09:09AM by Amyjo.