09 February 2012

Painted Lady - Dhahran Hills

The first Painted Lady butterflys of the year have just started to appear in the last two weeks with a number seen along the raised embankment around one side of the spray fields. Although the Painted Lady can survive in Saudi Arabia in most years the majority of butterflys are probably migrants.

The Painted Lady is the most widely distributed butterfly in the world occurring on all continents except Antarctica. It is a large butterfly with a buffy-orange background colour to the upper-wings. The fore-wings have black tips marked with white spots and the hind-wings have rows of brown or black circular spots. The underside of the wing are pale buff brown than the upper-wing. Newly emerged butterflies are brighter coloured, with the colouring becoming muted with age.

The Painted Lady is not yet specialized to the Arabian Peninsula although they can survive for periods if conditions are suitable. They survive by being a migrant species that survives due to their ability to move in search of suitable conditions where they can breed. It is a strong migrant and can occur in areas where it does not survive normally. In rainly years huge numbers breed in the Arabian Desert. They regularly undertake long-distance directional movements, sometimes many thousands of kilometres, in large numbers, which is an essential component of their life cycle and survival strategy. They normally feed on plants that ae of no interest to man, however, when a rapid population build up occurs it will feed on other plants and can destroy crops such as cotton, egg-plant and Ladies-fingers. In the desert if numbers are very high they can reduce the grazing matter for domestic animals.