Painted lady butterflies colouring the Island sky

A colourful swarm of painted lady butterflies have been spotted soaring around Rocky Point, P.E.I.

'This year has been a good year for population levels of migratory butterfly species'

Hundreds of painted lady butterflies were spotted flying the P.E.I. skies over Rocky Point. (Submitted by John Klymko)

A colourful swarm of painted lady butterflies have been spotted soaring around Rocky Point, P.E.I.

Hundreds of grey, pink and orange butterfly wings are colouring the Island sky as part of a boom in the 2017 population.

"This year has been a good year for population levels of migratory butterfly species," says John Klymko, a zoologist with the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre.

Klymko says the painted lady butterfly may stick around until November. (Submitted by John Klymko)

"Some years we have relatively few painted ladies and other migrants, but other years we have a lot. This year has been quite a good year."

The last time Klymko suspects there was a similar abundance of butterflies was in 2012.

'There's some mystery'

But where are they coming from, and where are they going? Klymko isn't exactly sure, and so the butterfly presence remain mysterious to him.

"There's some mystery with a lot of the migratory species," he said.

The monarch butterfly is the most well known migratory species in the Maritimes, says Klymko. (Nature Saskatchewan)

"The monarch is the best known migratory species that we get here in the Maritimes, they have a relatively well understood migration pattern."

However, other migratory species — like the painted lady — Klymko said, have a relatively unknown pattern.

May stick around until frost

"With things like painted lady, American lady and red admiral … it's not clear how many of them make the migration back south," Klymko said.

"There's probably some southern migration but it's not entirely clear what proportion of individuals that are out as adults at this time of year actually make it south where they can survive the winter." 

While their full migration patterns are unknown, Klymko said the painted lady butterflies may stick around P.E.I. for a while yet.

"You can see individuals of all the migratory species until we get really hard frost," he said, adding there are records of the population on the Island as late in the year as November.

With files from Laura Chapin