Seen any butterflies lately? You wouldn’t be alone.
All over California, painted lady butterflies are migrating en masse to cooler climates as summer approaches. In Ventura County, plumes of the small insects are painting the skies with their vivid colors, stopping on flowers and trees briefly to rest. The butterflies come via the Mojave and Colorado deserts with their final destination being Washington and Oregon states. While this is a yearly occurrence, 2019 has seen a special influx of the butterflies that scientists have accredited to the recent rains. Sadly, butterfly counts are down overall, with this year’s painted lady migration a lone exception. Monarch butterflies, which some have confused with the painted ladies, have seen a staggering decline in population numbers. In January, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation released a report that found Monarch butterfly numbers had dropped to their lowest level in recorded history in California. For perspective: Monarchs in Central and Southern California during the 1980s totaled around 4.5 million; in November 2018, only 28,429 were counted.