Saturday, 20 October 2012

Painted lady migration secrets unveiled - 9000 miles to Africa and back


Migration much longer than America's Monarch butterflies
October 2012. One of the longest standing mysteries of migration has finally been solved after scientists discovered where the UK's Painted Lady butterfly population goes each autumn. The butterfly, a common immigrant, migrates from the continent each summer to UK shores in varying numbers. But up until now scientists did not know if the Painted Lady made the return journey at the end of the summer, like the closely related Red Admiral, or simply died in the UK.
In one of the largest citizen science projects ever conducted, scientists from Butterfly Conservation, the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and Rothamsted Research amongst others, have discovered exactly what happens to Painted Ladies each autumn.
More than 60,000 public sightings of the butterfly during 2009 were collected across Europe including radar images tracking butterfly movements across southern England with 10,000 British observers taking part.
High altitude migration
Scientists discovered that the Painted Lady did indeed migrate south each autumn but made this return journey at high altitude out of view of butterfly observers on the ground. Radar records revealed that Painted Ladies fly at an average altitude of over 500 metres on their southbound trip and can clock up speeds of 30 mph by selecting favourable conditions.
9000 mile round trip
The findings also revealed that the species undertakes a phenomenal 9,000 mile round trip from tropical Africa to the Arctic Circle - almost double the length of the famous migrations undertaken by Monarch butterflies in North America.


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