Painted Lady

A pristine painted lady, fresh from the chrysalis, feeding on bramble flowers in the reserve yesterday.

Recent research has found that the painted lady’s migration begins much further south than previously thought, in sub-Saharan Africa. Over six or more successive generations, and in a single year, this species makes an astonishing 9,000 mile round trip from tropical Africa to the Arctic Circle and back.

Photographed in the reserve by Clive Knight

Unlike the monarch butterfly, the painted lady doesn’t pause to overwinter. The painted lady just keeps going, breeding and moving continuously, taking the whole population from Africa to northern Europe and back, year after year. The butterflies that return to Africa in the late autumn will be several generations removed from their ancestors that left at the beginning of the year.

This beautiful, newly hatched adult, perhaps the offspring of the painted lady that Clive photographed in May, will feed in the reserve for a while and then leave to undertake its stage of the epic journey north.

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