SoCal’s Butterfly Swarm Heads North

Could the roughly billion painted lady butterflies coming from Mexico show up in San Francisco?

(Courtesy photo)

February showers bring March flowers and butterflies just doesn’t have the same ring to it but that’s the case for 2019.

Heavy winter rains brought not only a mostly drought-free California, but ample vegetation for painted lady butterflies to feed and lay eggs on. The butterflies have already taken Los Angeles by swarm this week and are expected to reach NorCal in the coming days — the biggest since 2005.

That’s according to Arthur Shapiro, a UC Davis professor who has studied butterfly migrations in California since 1972. He told CNN that it’s a big change from the previous year, which was one of the worst migrations he tracked. Though monarch butterflies are different, their numbers are down 97 percent since the 1980s in troubling climate change trend that reverberates up the food chain.

But this year, about one billion painted lady butterflies are making their way up from their winter home of Mexico, first feasting on Southern California’s super bloom of foliage. A number of confused Los Angeles residents took to Twitter on Monday to ask what was going on and one even thought it was debris in the wind at first.

Painted lady butterflies are similar to monarchs but more spotted, smaller and a different shape. Though Shapiro expects most of them to pass through the Central Valley toward Oregon, we’re holding out hope that some will flutter over San Francisco — or the row of Painted Ladies, if fate is so kind.

View Comments