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Painted Ladies flutter through Yuma (with video)
Strikingly distinctive from the contrast of their orange, black, brown and white wings, Painted Ladies are drawing Yumans' attention because of their large numbers.
And, people should welcome the service they perform, says a local horticulturist.
Painted Ladies are butterflies that began to migrate to Yuma last week from northern Mexico and are likely to move north within a couple of weeks, says Stacey Bealmear, a University of Arizona horticulturist. Bealmear teaches a master Southwest gardening class at the school's Cooperative Extension office on 28th Street.
"We should be enjoying this special event," Bealmear said. "It's a really neat thing that's happening because of the beauty they provide, and a lot of places don't experience it. "
There is definitely a substantial increase of butterflies over last year and that is because of the increased rain this winter that resulted in a lot more flowers, Bealmear noted.
"Butterflies eat the nectar, not the flowers," Bealmear said. "Consequently when there's a lot of food around, they go where the food is."
One downside, she said, is the eggs they lay hatch into larvae that do eat parts of some plants.
Brian Edwards, meteorologist with AccuWeather service, confirmed Bealmear's contention about the weather. Edwards noted last winter there was only 1 inch of rain in Yuma that amounted to 67 percent of normal rainfall. But this winter Yuma received 3.38 inches of rain, which is 235 percent of normal precipitation.
"This year the jet stream has been farther south compared to last year," Edwards said. "That's what causes the Pacific storm systems to move farther south and the jet stream is the path storms will follow."
Despite their massive number, the Painted Ladies will not harm any commercial produce or native wildlife but actually aid pollination, Bealmear said. The butterflies transfer pollen from one plant to another and seeds will then develop which drop into the soil and additional plants will flourish, she added.
"People should enjoy them," Bealmear said.
Dorothy Euhus, a retiree, works a small "hobby farm" on the Yuma mesa, where she raises grapefruit and minneolas. Euhus said there is definitely an abundance of Painted Ladies this year.
"I see them fluttering all over the place, on the blossoms of the citrus trees, the snail vines and on the rose bushes when I take my morning walk on the mesa."
She recalled four years ago there was also enormous numbers of Painted Ladies that came through in groups of up to a dozen at a time, and she said she had a feeling they were migrating because there was so many of them. Despite their number, she has never experienced any damage to her crop.
"They're just really pretty to watch," she said.
William Roller can be reached at
email@example.com or 539-6858.