Large clouds of painted lady butterflies are being spotted across the UK and Ireland – and experts believe we are seeing a mass emergence that happens every 10 years.

Weather conditions and food sources are providing ideal conditions for the species to thrive.

Sightings of painted ladies – otherwise known as Vanessa cardui – have prompted countless pictures and videos to be posted to social media.

About 11 million of the butterflies were seen in the UK during the last “painted lady year” in 2009.

Simon Milne, Regius Keeper at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, describes the phenomenon as “an amazing wonder of nature”.

On a normal day, in a regular year, Simon said he would expect to see about 10 to 15 of the species at the botanic gardens.

But he has encountered thousands of painted ladies in the past few days, and predicts that this year could see bigger numbers than ever before.

We are currently seeing a wave of home-grown butterflies, which are the descendants of those carried on winds from sub-Saharan Africa, along with newer arrivals from continental Europe.

Despite their delicate appearance, the insects can cover up to 100 miles each day as they migrate.

Tom Prescott, senior conservation officer with Butterfly Conservation Scotland, says that favourable breeding conditions mean we could see another wave of butterflies at the end of the summer “come early autumn, we could be up to our knees in them,” he said.

Numbers depend on favourable conditions earlier in the year, where the butterflies spend winter, warmer temperatures and favourable wind conditions as they migrate north.

The species often lay eggs on thistles, giving them the name Thistle Butterfly. Adults tend to feed on flowering plants and are often attracted to buddleia plants.

The public is being asked to submit butterfly sightings online to help Butterfly Conservation monitor numbers of this and other breeds.

Many butterfly species have been in decline.

According to the Butterfly Conservation Society, there is “evidence of the serious, long-term and ongoing decline of UK butterflies”.

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Acknowledgements: Extracts taken from BBC News

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The spectacular Peacock Butterfly is a familiar sight in gardens in the UK and is unmistakable, with quite spectacular eyes on the upperside of the hindwings that give the Peacock butterfly its name. These eyes must appear very threatening to predators, such as mice, when confronting it head-on.

Peacock Butterfly‘ (Image by CRUSH Photography)

The underside is a different matter altogether, being almost black, providing perfect camouflage when the Peacock Butterfly is at rest on a tree trunk, or when hibernating.

Peacock Butterfly‘ (Image by CRUSH Photography)

In addition to camouflage and large eyes, it is able to make a hissing sound by rubbing its wings together that is audible to human ears. All in all, it must appear very threatening to any predator that might come across it. This is a highly mobile insect and occurs throughout the British Isles, although it is not found in parts of northern Scotland. However, its range does seem to be increasing, with sightings from new areas being recorded every year.

CRUSH Photography© 

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Acknowledgements: Extract taken from "UK Butterflies"

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A large and strong-flying butterfly and common in gardens. This familiar and distinctive insect may be found anywhere in Britain and Ireland and in all habitat types.

‘Red Admiral’

Starting each spring and continuing through the summer there are northward migrations, which are variable in extent and timing, from North Africa and continental Europe. The immigrant females lay eggs and consequently there is an emergence of fresh butterflies, from about July onwards. They continue flying into October or November and are typically seen nectaring on garden buddleias or flowering Ivy and on rotting fruit.

There is an indication that numbers have increased in recent years and that overwintering has occurred in the far south of England.

CRUSH Photography© 

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Acknowledgements: Extract taken from 'Butterfly Conser more...

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