Why do millions of painted butterflies migrate to California?


An unusually wet winter in southern California gave way to a bloom of wildflowers and an explosion of Painted Lady butterflies.

Black and orange insects generally keep a low profile when they make their annual migration from the deserts of western Mexico to their breeding grounds in the Pacific Northwest. But this year, they are hard to miss. Scientists say that the additional growth of plants has allowed their population to reach millions of people.

"The way I explain it to people, it's like being in a painted butterfly snowball," says Pat Flanagan, co-founder and CEO of Butterfly Farms, a non-profit organization based in Encinitas. "Between the superflowering and the butterflies flying last weekend in our local desert, it was one of the most spectacular days of my life."

Highlights of the interview

On what feeds the mass migration of Painted Ladies across California

"Here in San Diego, we can have a few inches of rain, even on the coast, and our deserts, although very beautiful, are exceptionally dry and can only see a few centimeters throughout the season. in our desert that recorded the year totals in one day … so we had a very exceptional weather event this winter and the plant world reacted and when the plants take off like that, we see explosions from Insects. "

On the general decline of the butterfly population in California

"While everyone is enjoying butterflies in recent weeks in California … we can not lose sight of the fact that our population of monarchs, we just received our figures from last November's count, we had lost 86% from the previous Monarch of the Year count, so our butterfly populations are in decline and we can not lose sight of the tremendous work ahead. "

What people can do to help the declining butterfly population

"What everyone can do to get involved – especially with monarch problems – is the plant habitat. [a] Milkweed is the habitat of the monarch. It was a hard to find plant 20 years ago, but it is much easier to find now. Almost everyone can call and find milkweed that suits their area. Plant it in your garden, monarch butterflies will come, [and] they will reproduce. Go to your garden center, take the milkweed, plant it in your garden and help the monarchs. "

Savannah Maher produced this interview, edited it for broadcast with Todd Mundt.

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