Each year painted lady butterflies cross the Sahara — and then go back again | Science News

Real Science. Real News.

Science News is a nonprofit.

Support us by subscribing now.


The –est

Each year painted lady butterflies cross the Sahara — and then go back again

They migrate 12,000 km annually, the longest known butterfly migration route

By
7:00am, June 20, 2018
a painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) resting on vegetation

GOING THE DISTANCE  Painted ladies travel 12,000 km each year, farther than any known butterfly migration.

Move over, monarchs. The painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) now boasts the farthest known butterfly migration.

Though found across the world, the orange-and-brown beauties that live in Southern Europe migrate into Africa each fall, crossing the Sahara on their journey (SN Online: 10/12/16). But what happened after was a mystery because the butterflies disappeared. Researchers hypothesized that the insects either remained in Africa or made a round-trip, but there was no evidence either way.

A new chemical analysis of butterfly wings suggests that the butterflies head back to Europe in the spring. The round-trip, which usually plays out over several generations, is an annual journey of 12,000 kilometers, about 2,000 more than

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now.
Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content