31 July 2009

Billions of butterflies

This year the UK has been invaded by an army of painted lady butterflies. The painted lady is a summer migrant, flying from Europe and North Africa. The conditions in North Africa this year were superb and the adults, strong fliers, have dispersed through Europe. Scientists estimate that one billion painted ladies will be on the wing in the UK in August, some having flown over from Europe and others emerging from pupae from the first arrivals back in June.
Its a bumper year for the Painted Lady and other common species such as the Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral and Meadow Browns but sadly, others are not doing so well - fritillaries for example. Its not due to competition with other butterfly species, but habitat loss.
On the butterfly conservation website (http://www.butterfly-conservation.org) you can log your sightings of this butterfly as well as those of the humming-bird hawkmoth. This moth is a day flying species that is often seen sipping nectar from flowers using its extra ong proboscis. It gets its name from the way it hovers in front of the flower, just like a hummingbird.

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