About The River

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Millions of Painted Lady Butterflies in California

Wisconsin Butterfly in my 2018 garden.
While listening to my favorite radio station KUSC 
out of Southern California, I heard about the Millions of Painted Lady Butterflies in California.

Substantial rainfall in the deserts near the Mexican border, where the North American painted ladies lay their eggs, is the reason for the unusually large swarms. The rain caused plants to thrive, giving the painted lady caterpillars plenty of food to fuel their transformation, said Arthur M. Shapiro, a professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis.

An unusually wet winter in Southern California has given way to a super bloom of wildflowers and an explosion of Painted Lady butterflies.
The black and orange insects usually keep a low profile as they make their annual migration from the deserts of western Mexico to their breeding grounds in the Pacific Northwest. But this year, they're hard to miss. Scientists say that extra plant growth has allowed their population to boom into the millions.

September of 2017 Wisconsin was blessed with a similar event.  Our mild spring weather allowed for an early northward migration. In 2017 Painted Ladies were spotted in Iowa as early as March 10th, which is earlier than normal. With such an early arrival, the butterflies were able to have two generations instead of just one. 
For us Wisconsinites, the abundance of butterflies would not be visible to us, because they typically migrate at an elevation several thousand feet in the air to take advantage of favorable wind currents. Using the wind they can travel up to 100 miles a day, and reach speeds of nearly 30 miles per hour. September of 2017, Wisconsin had strong southern weather flow that brought the Painted Ladies down. It is not efficient for a tiny butterfly to try and fly against the wind, so they took a break and were busy refueling on Autumn flowers such as goldenrod, asters, zinnia and sunflowers. It truly was a magical September for Wisconsin and I am sure that is how California folks are feeling this Spring!


  1. That must be a beautiful sight to see.
    We don't see many Monarch butterflies anymore. I hope they come back.
    Hugs, Julia

  2. That must be truly amazing!! I will now be searching for photos! How wonderful! Annster's Domain

  3. Yes we had them here flying by our house. It was so amazing and beautiful! Also Mark and I went to a Poppy Reserve yesterday and I will be sharing the photos. We have lived in Southern California for 30 years and have never seen so many poppies up on the hillsides all over the place. It's been so beautiful! Thank for the history.

  4. The idea of butterflies and flowers are making me smile and feel warm all over with thoughts of summer. That's when they show up around here. Beautiful.

  5. I bet they are so beautiful! We don't get a lot of butterflies where we live...we have strong wind and intense heat. Occasionally during the spring, we might see a few, but that's it! Love and hugs!

  6. They're beautiful! What a sight that must be! We had almost no butterflies our first summer here but last summer we had a lot because of planting things to draw them. We were like camera fools trying to get pictures every day and identifying them. But we hadn't planted any milkweed plants and that's top of our list this spring.

    From one person who gets excited over butterflies to another!

  7. so interesting. and now I know what a Painted Lay looks like, too. so I can identify one if I see it. The butterfly and Zinnias are so beautiful together. They are so fragile looking, yet so very strong!!!

  8. Oh, butterflies and flowers are such a perfect combination. We don't get a lot of butterflies here in the mountains, but we certainly get enough to see a couple every day during the late spring and summer.

    Enjoy the remainder of your week, my friend. Hugs!

  9. What a sight! We seldom see any butterflies in this area, Carla. I am not sure why but I do love to see them. xo Diana

  10. Woah that is so cool! I never thought about how butterflies migrate and now I know why I've never seen them do it! Gorgeous!

  11. What a beautiful sight that must be. I hope this continues. Thanks for sharing this.
    Hugs and Happy Thursday.

  12. Oh the beauty in deed!
    As Stephanie said, we do get a lot of butterflies this high up in the mountains, but we get enough to enjoy their awesome beauty.
    Last year we had some very tiny golden, and I mean golden butterflies that literally shown like gold in the sun light.
    They were amazing, unlike any butterfly I had ever seen.
    Thank you for sharing this information.

    Heap Day to you 🦋

  13. Oops!! Happy Day to you.
    That spell check trips me up too many time!!😮

  14. How amazing and beautiful that must be! I've been seeing photo's of the magnificent super bloom of wildflowers, but I didn't realize how it was impacting the butterflies!

  15. That is such a beautiful photograph.
    We are fortunate to see butterflies flitting around the garden from time to time … a lovely sight.

    All the best Jan

  16. We see butterflies here in NC from May til August. I love watching them sip from my Butterfly bush.
    cute post.

  17. I can't imagine seeing them all together, it must be amazing. Have a wonderful week.


High Fives from Wisconsin!