Out of Africa

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On Sunday I mentioned that I’d been told by Mike Williams of Butterfly Conservation that an influx of migrant Silver Y moths often coincides with mass migration into the UK of Painted Lady butterflies. Yesterday evening I went for a final walk around the village at about 9pm, and returned to find at least thirty Silver Y moths partying around the red valerian… and this afternoon when R and I arrived home from running errands, there was a Painted Lady, nectaring on one of the valerian plants.

Oh wait, no… two Painted Ladies – one very much more battered than the other.

Oh…. hang on – three. Plus a couple of day-flying Silver Ys.

I find it extraordinary to think that this is a species that starts its life in North Africa and the Middle East, and then in summer migrates thousands of miles northwards and westwards into mainland Europe – and, in a good year, Britain and Ireland. It amazes me even that birds make these huge journeys, let alone insects. Though, as I mentioned, one of the three that arrived in East Worcestershire today was rather the worse for wear, the other two were in pretty good physical condition; they were quite shy and skittish though, so many photos had to be taken to achieve a small number of keepers (plus, the light was horrible – but let’s step around that). Despite the light, and their nervousness, their arrival made me happy – I’ve only ever blipped a Painted Lady twice before in the four years I’ve been doing this journal, in the summer of 2015 and the autumn of 2016. And as it’s still quite early in the butterfly season, there’s plenty of time for more to arrive yet.

Even though I shared that prediction with you, I wondered at the time if it was maybe a bit of an old lepidopterists’ wives’ tale; but here we are: it’s a Painted Lady year. Of course, as R and I occasionally point out to each other, those old wives didn’t get thrown into ponds for no reason: they knew a thing or two.

Or three.