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Butterfly Conservation Warwickshire - Branch Logo featuring the White-letter Hairstreak butterfly.Butterfly Conservation.

Butterfly migration mystery solved

by Louise Keeling (Senior Publicity Officer)
Date: 12/11/2009

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Scientists with the charity Butterfly Conservation believe they have solved one of nature's long-standing mysteries - thanks to the help of the public.

Every year Painted Lady butterflies arrive in the UK from North Africa and the Mediterranean. It has long been known that they breed here during the summer and also that they cannot normally survive our winters. What happens to these Painted Ladies as winter approaches was unknown until now.

Scientists had been baffled as to whether Painted Ladies attempted to "tough it out" and died trying during our winters. Or was there a return southward migration to warmer climes, as is the case with Swallows, Cuckoos and Red Admiral butterflies? Part of the problem has been that, unlike these other well-known migrants, there was very little evidence of Painted Ladies flying south in the autumn.

This summer was a bumper migration year with, at the peak, up to a billion Painted Ladies in Britain.

Butterfly Conservation has been monitoring Painted Lady movements since the start of northward migration at the beginning of the year, with members of the public being able to report sightings online at Butterfly Conservation. There has been a huge response, not only from the UK but from across Europe. An amazing 12,000 sightings have been submitted so far, with reports still coming in.

Last month brought some particularly exciting reports. From the Channel coasts of Cornwall, Devon, Sussex and Kent sightings were reported of Painted Ladies heading straight out to sea towards continental Europe.

Now reports have been received of butterflies arriving back in the Mediterranean and North Africa.

Richard Fox, Butterfly Conservation's surveys manager, said: "Several of these lucky observers saw more than one butterfly head out on its perilous voyage. This is exactly the evidence needed to lay this enduring mystery to rest. Painted Ladies do return southwards from Britain in the autumn enabling the species to continue its breeding cycle during the winter months".

Permission to use the attached images is restricted to the purpose of this press release.

For further information contact

Richard Fox
Surveys Manager , Butterfly Conservation
01626 368 385
07711 657 322
rfox@butterfly-conservation.org

Louise Keeling
Senior Publicity Officer
01929 406 005
07515 889 225
lkeeling@butterfly-conservation.org

Notes for Editors

Butterfly Conservation is the largest insect conservation charity in Europe with nearly 14,000 members in the UK. Its aim is the conservation of butterflies, moths and their habitats. It runs conservation programmes for over 60 threatened species of butterfly and moth and manages over 30 nature reserves. Further information www.butterfly-conservation.org

Butterfly Conservation.
Company limited by guarantee, registered in England (2206468).
Registered Office: Manor Yard, East Lulworth, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 5QP.
Charity registered in England & Wales (254937) and in Scotland (SCO39268)

If you have any questions or require more information about this press release, please contact Louise Keeling (Senior Publicity Officer) by email.

About Our Press Releases

Butterfly Conservation Warwickshire regularly issue press releases on issues in relation to butterfly and moth conservation in the Coventry, Warwickshire and Solihull area alongside occasional press releases covering national stories from Butterfly Conservation's head office.

If you require further information about a specific press release, please contact the specific press release author.

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Notes For Editors
Butterfly Conservation is the largest conservation charity of its type in Europe with over 13,000 members in the UK. Its aim is the conservation of butterflies, moths and their habitats. It runs conservation programmes on over 60 threatened species of butterfly and moth, organises national butterfly recording and monitoring schemes, and manages over 30 nature reserves.

Further information at: www.butterfly-conservation.org