Painted Lady Butterfly Phenomenon
Category: Birding at the Chico

 Painted Lady butterflies were common to abundant this spring on Chico Basin Ranch. They seem to disappear in the fall, however this year they are abundant.  Radar images show why Painted Ladies aren't seen most falls in a migration that extends further north (arctic) and further south than the famous monarch butterfly migration. The combined spring and fall Painted Lady migration (fall butterflies are the offspring of spring Painted Ladies) is as long as 9000 miles in length. Sophisticated radar now shows Painted Ladies migrate as high as 3,000 feet above ground level and can fly up to 30 mph. Due to abundant summer rains on Chico Basin Ranch, the common Rabbitbrush shrub (Ericameria nauseosa) has produced a bumper crop of flowers and migrant Painted Ladies are stopping to feed all along Colorado’s Front Range this fall.  Painted Ladies undergo a complete metamorphosis; a life cycle from egg, larva, chrysalis to adult takes about 30 days, meaning the adult butterflies observed in spring migration are not the same individuals seen flying south this fall.  It is not uncommon to see 20 or more Painted Ladies feeding on a single blooming Rabbitbrush. 

Posted by Bill M. on 10/20/2017
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