… 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…
Scientists were bracing for a butterfly collapse. Now they’re everywhere
By Deborah Netburn, Los Angeles Times
Mar 12, 2019
Perhaps you spotted them on La Cienega, flitting north by the thousands near the Westfield Mall.
Maybe you saw them in Santa Anita, crossing a quiet residential street in a thick, fluttering line.
You may have even commuted with hundreds of them along the 105 freeway, where they furiously flapped their small wings as if they were trying to catch a flight at Los Angeles International Airport.
Those black-and-orange insects that seem to be everywhere you look in Southern California aren’t monarchs and they aren’t moths. They are called Painted Ladies, and these butterflies are migrating by the millions across the state.
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...