Long haul flyer


York, United Kingdom

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Artist's Description

“Watch the program about the Painted Lady migration” I encouraged my friends.
After the broadcast I offered my abject apologies. Super subject, presentation not to the standard one expects of the BBC.
After 10 years of research, a scientist posits that the Painted Lady leaves the breeding grounds of the Atlas Mountains to escape the parasitic wasp, Cotesia, which oviposits in the caterpillars. He could of course, be correct.
MY theory:
The primary urges of any species are feed & breed, or feed TO breed.
It’s Africa, the butterflies’ food source is dying in the heat. They set off for Spain, or further afield even, some coming straight to England.
They arrive in Spain, lay their eggs & probably die or maybe continue their journey. There is larval food but nectar sources are few. The newly eclosed butterflies fly north to France or England, some going to Scotland or even Iceland.
But in England, although there are sufficient food sources, there are also parasitic flies & wasps which lay their eggs in larvae or even directly into the butterfly.
They’ve escaped a parasite to meet a parasite.
If the urge to flee from parasites is so strong, one wonders why our Large & Small Whites don’t migrate. Some years, despite collecting at egg stage, I’ve lost all my potential butterflies to parasitic flies & wasps which have oviposited directly into the eggs.
As temperatures begin to fall, the Painted Ladies begin to leave the cold north and head for the warmth of Africa. They are unable to withstand our winters but a few have managed to survive in the southern counties.
These tiny, light weight insects set off on a monumental  journey, greater even than that of the North American Monarch which flies from Canada to Mexico, rests over winter and then flies to Texas in spring. The Painted Lady flies direct, long haul, no long rests between England and Africa.
Jim saw a cloud of them heading south (brilliant binoculars) in 2009 which was when the major tracking in both directions started with the huge irruption which sadly missed York, but we still remember 1996…

This newly eclosed imago was feeding in my York (England) garden today. Hopefully it will find the strength and favourable winds to allow it to reach the Atlas Mountains.
Panasonic FZ1000

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