March 31, 2005

The Invasion of the Monarchs, er, Painted Ladies

(see update below)

Today is an amazing, beautiful day in La Jolla. It's also magical -- something I've never before seen in the ~17 years of living here.

Waves and waves of Monarch butterflies everywhere you look. A proverbial blizzard of them, fluttering up and down and here and there seemingly randomly but all headed in a certain northeastern direction.

They're coming from the west -- the ocean. It is weird!

I was on the UCSD campus today and they were everywhere there too.

If I had the time I'd go investigate where they're all headed. Somewhere in Southern California there must be fields literally carpeted with Monarchs. It would make for some great Flickr photos.

Ironically, Google News has a link to a story out of Mexico today saying Monarchs are in danger in Mexico.

UPDATE & CORRECTION -- they're "Painted Lady" butterflies, often misunderstood by chumps like me to be Monarchs. MonarchWatch set me straight:

The butterflies that you are seeing are actually painted ladies (Vanesa cardui). They are often confused with monarchs but are a bit smaller and have different markings. They migrate, too, but on a much smaller scale (shorter distances) than monarchs; their migration coincides with weather in the fall and spring. During wet springs, like this one, they can be seen in great numbers. As you know, a group of them headed north is a spectacular sight! You can read more in the articles below.,1413,206~22097~2784356,00.html
Wet weather creates ideal conditions for swarms of migrating ...

Pasadena Star-News - Pasadena,CA,USA ... Painted ladies look sort of like small monarch butterflies, and they travel in caravans that fly about 10 feet above ground. The ...,1413,200~20954~2784570,00.htm>Butterflies invading the Valley Los Angeles Daily News - Los Angeles,CA,USA
... the orange, black and white-spotted painted lady butterflies are determinedly ... Visually similar but smaller than the more familiar monarch butterfly, the ...

Painted lady butterflies migrate through North County
North County Times - Escondido,CA,USA
... The butterflies have similar coloring as monarch butterflies, but they are smaller and flap their wings continually when they fly.
Swarms of Painted Ladies migrate through OC OCRegister (subscription) - Orange County,CA,USA ... in the deserts, that caused butterflies' host plants to grow faster and heavier than usual, said David F. Marriott, director of the Monarch Project butterfly ...

Monarch Watch

Here's the scoop from the San Diego Union Tribune:

Posted by brian at March 31, 2005 03:52 PM | TrackBack


Hey Brian -- Good seeing you earlier today. One of us really needs to figure out the neighborhood to make better beer suggestions -- mine tasted a lot like lemonade.

More seriously, this was apparently a painted lady butterfly migration that happens once or twice a decade. This was a particularly spectacular example, with millions of butterflies passing through, one precipitated (all puns intended) by the heavy rains in the deserts of Mexico this winter. The ladies head north this time of year, but they have to do it speedily with only a two-week lifespan in which to lay eggs and start the cycle again.

Posted by: Paul K. at March 31, 2005 11:01 PM

Any pictures?

Posted by: josh at April 1, 2005 09:30 AM

Flickr has some (not very exciting so far) pictures:

Posted by: David Ascher at April 1, 2005 03:48 PM

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