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Colourful painted lady butterflies invading Kent

painted KE 28.05.09
painted KE 28.05.09

Over the last 10 days the south east has seen the butterflies flood in from Europe.

Painted Lady butterflies are from north Africa, but migrate to Europe each spring and early summer seeking cooler temperatures.

It is believed recent mild weather conditions and winds blowing in the right direction have dramatically increased the numbers arriving in Kent and the south east.

The invasion has been noticed in areas like the Romney Marsh.

Owen Leyshon of the Romney Marsh Countryside Project said: "Painted Ladies are a strong flier and at places on the coast like Dungeness, thousands of Painted Ladies have been seen flying in off the sea and massing around the numerous flowers each day.

"This is not just a coastal spectacle, places inland like Tenterden and Ashford have also seen mass congregations of the butterfly on flowerbeds in gardens and parks.

"In previous years the species have been quite scarce in Kent and we tend not to see any Painted Ladies until July and August, so having such a mass invasion so early in the season is unusual."

Mr Leyshon added: "They are a large butterfly which have a salmon pink colouration and a range of black and white markings on the wings.

"They come from Europe or possibly North Africa, but that fact that many species are in such fresh condition suggests a more European origin.

"The species lays its eggs on thistles and a further life cycle might be possible to be squeezed in later during the British summer. However, the British winters are too cold for them and the species dies out, so we rely on fresh arrivals each year.

"Very few other insects have followed the Painted Ladies travels north through Europe into this country, with just a few Clouded Yellow butterflies and Hummingbird Hawkmoths recorded in East Kent so far."

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