Mass Migration of Painted Lady Butterflies Entrances Californians

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Painted lady butterflies landing on a cherry tree as they migrated north through Encinitas, Calif.CreditCreditMike Blake/Reuters

Swarms of any other insect might provoke fears of a coming apocalypse, but clouds of butterflies migrating through Southern California are captivating onlookers who are relishing the otherworldly spectacle.

The orange butterflies, called painted ladies, are known to travel annually from the deserts of Southern California to the Pacific Northwest. This month, people are taking notice because of the sheer size of the migration: Scientists estimate the teeming painted ladies number in the millions.

Substantial rainfall in the deserts near the Mexican border, where the North American painted ladies lay their eggs, is the reason for the unusually large swarms. The rain caused plants to thrive, giving the painted lady caterpillars plenty of food to fuel their transformation, said Arthur M. Shapiro, a professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis.

To human observers, the painted ladies move with speed and intention, as if they have somewhere to be. They can fly as fast as 25 miles per hour.

“The striking thing is they’re moving very rapidly and directionally,” said Professor Shapiro, who has studied butterfly migrations in California for more than 40 years. “So it’s almost like being in a hail of bullets.”

They tend not to veer from oncoming cars, which can prove troublesome in Los Angeles traffic. When the painted ladies smash into a windshield, the result is a glob of yellow, butter-like ooze. That’s the result of the butterfly’s stored fat, used to make the long journey north, Professor Shapiro said.

Monika Moore, a butterfly enthusiast who lives in Fullerton, Calif., said she noticed that the mass moves in a strange way. The butterflies will fly low to the ground in an open field or yard, but when they encounter a tall building, they will fly over it — creating a “funky” up-and-down dipping pattern, said Ms. Moore, who has a Facebook page called California Butterfly Lady.

“They’re in a hurry, like the rabbit in ‘Alice in Wonderland,’” she said. “They have a very important date.”

This year, the painted lady migration in California appears to have veered off its customary course. Professor Shapiro said that if the painted ladies were following their annual pattern, they should have arrived in Northern California about a week ago, yet they appear to be staying in Southern California.

One possible explanation, Professor Shapiro said, is that there has been such abundant rain and plant growth in Southern California that the butterflies have settled down and reproduced there.

Professor Shapiro reported on Sunday evening that he had seen nine painted ladies near where he lives in the Northern California.

“Presumably these are the vanguard,” he wrote in an email. “We’re off and running.”

The explosion of plant growth in Southern California that has fueled this migration of butterflies is in itself a spectacle. The growth of colorful wildflowers, called a super bloom, has attracted a steady stream of tourists. In 2017, wildflower blooms in Southern California were so dense that they were visible from space.

[One of our reporters visited Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, a site of the super bloom.]

Substantial rainfall in the deserts near the Mexico border, where the North American painted ladies lay their eggs, has fueled this year’s unusually large swarms.CreditJohn Francis Peters for The New York Times

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Substantial rainfall in the deserts near the Mexico border, where the North American painted ladies lay their eggs, has fueled this year’s unusually large swarms.CreditJohn Francis Peters for The New York Times

Although this year’s butterfly migration is significant, it pales in comparison with the swarms of 2005. That year, scientists estimated more than a billion butterflies traveled across California. Cars on California highways looked as if they had been splattered with raw eggs.

As the painted ladies linger in the southern part of the state, Californians are getting a prolonged look at the clouds of flapping orange wings.

On an overcast day last week, Jessica McGhee biked to the waterfront in Redondo Beach to collect plastics to use to make art. Ms. McGhee said she saw a couple of butterflies flit by, then a few more. Soon they flew by in the dozens, and then in the hundreds.

“I felt like I was in a Disney movie”

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/17/us/migrating-painted-lady-butterflies.html#click=https://t.co/M2DBSnEFPM

Oil Leak In Solomon Islands Potentially Wreaking Havoc On World’s Largest Raised Coral Atoll – Sea Voice News

seavoicenews.com

by Alex Larson

An environmental crisis continues in the Solomon Islands as for more than month, a cargo ship off the coast of Rennell Island in the Kangava Bay has been leaking oil into the waters. This site also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage site as it is the world’s largest raised coral atoll.

The ship, a 740-foot-long ship called the Solomon Trader ran aground on February 5, 2019 where it was carrying more than 700 metric tons of oil according the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said Tuesday. So far, CNN affiliate Radio NZ has reported that the wreck has released more than 100 tons of oil into the sea that holds one of the most important coral atolls in the world.

While a large amount of the oil still remains in the ship, there is a high risk that the remaining oil on board could leak into the sea. According to the DFAT, the oil had spread about three and half miles and has begun to wash up onshore.

Speaking to the New York Times, Simon Albert, a marine ecologist at the University of Queensland explained that the spill is likely to cause long therm damage to the coral and local ecosystem.

When coral comes in contact with oil, it can either kill the coral polyps direct or significantly impact reproduction, growth, and behavior over the a long period of time. What this means is that this coral, which is already struggling to survive due to bleaching events and ocean acidification, will be impacted for generations of coral to come.

While the future will be problematic, there are already environmental impacts occurring according to Radio NZ. Loti Yates, the director of the Solomon Islands Disaster Management Office, told them that dead fish have been washing up on beaches.

“There are dead fish and crabs and all that,” Yates said. “The fumes that is coming out from the oil is also affecting communities and I just had a report it’s also impacting on the chicken and birds.”

The site is the largest raised coral atoll in the world, according to UNESCO, which said in a statement this week the leak is taking place just outside the World Heritage site.

The ship ran aground when it was attempting to load cargo of bauxite in the Solomon Island when Cyclone Oma pushed in into a reef. The ship is based out of Hong-Kong and insured by a Korean company.

Thus far, the company attempted to try and use a tugboat to move the ship but this only made matters worse as it pushed it further into the reef. Since then, Australian officials are supporting the Solomon Islands in efforts to mitigate ecological damage. The DFAT said the Australian government has deployed special equipment and an eight-person response crew from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

The companies are now working on transferring the remaining 600 metric tons of fuel oil on the ship to different tanks which will be pumped onto a separate barge that is en route.

They’ve also started deploying oil spill booms to contain the spread, and have begun cleaning along the shoreline, the statement said.

http://seavoicenews.com/2019/03/12/oil-leak-in-solomon-islands-potentially-wreaking-havoc-on-worlds-largest-raised-coral-atoll/