3 minute read29 Jan 2020

Wonder of Migrating Butterflies

In midsummer the Brown Veined White Butterfly takes to the sky in their thousands.  They undertake the incredible journey from the coastal areas from Cape Town up to Namibia and the South African interior, heading north east towards Madagascar.  Some will die and others will join the migration forming massive clouds of butterflies which reach up to a kilometre into the sky.  

The females lay their eggs on specific food plants which are prolific along the Cape Coast and the Karoo and in a few days myriads of tiny caterpillars announced their arrival by steadily chomping their way through the vegetation.  These caterpillars grow fat and then form a chrysalis where they transform into a pupa.  From these humble beginnings emerges a delicate but resilient butterfly.  The adult female butterfly then seeks out a mate and a new food plant to lay her eggs upon.  The cycle of life continues – until the food source runs out!

With food for their caterpillar-off-spring in short supply, females that have not mated will seek out new pastures and keep moving in a south-easterly direction towards Mozambique.  Some will find nectar plants en-route, find hostplants and lay their eggs to ensure the survival of the species. 

A Host of  Brown Veined White Butterflies Also Called the Pioneer Butterfly

The butterflies travel from sunrise to dusk and need to replenish themselves with nectar every 20 minutes or risk dying from dehydration. They favour long grass and are particularly attracted to grass nectar.

This butterfly migration is a phenomenon that occurs every year around the middle of summer. Gauteng, the NE Province and Northern Cape are visited by millions of these delicate, enchanting and adored swarms of drifting white beauty.  Their flight is not without trail and threat.  They are prey to birds, vulnerable to winds and if they can’t find enough nectar on their journey, can perish from exhaustion and dehydration.

The wonder of nature; that this tiny, fragile creature can navigate in a north west direction, fly such heights and distances and endure such hardship to ensure that their species continues.

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