Butterflies Flutter Across the Region in Abundance

Monday, May 07, 2012

Red admiral butterflies have been attracting attention all over the city and throughout New Jersey this weekend. Scientists agree that the abundance of these flower-loving creatures is an unusual occurrence.

“It’s a nice phenomenon for once,” said Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, a scientist at the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program, a Cornell-affiliated outpost based on Long Island. Gangloff-Kaufmann specializes in the study of urban pests, which include nuisances like bedbugs, ticks and mosquitoes, as well as butterflies and bees. Over weekend she was admiring tons of butterflies outdoors in the city.

Gangloff-Kaufmann said experts don’t know with certainty what has caused the uptick in the population, but she and others suspect that storm patterns and this year’s mild winter may be factors.

“I suspect that the mild temperatures have caused them to migrate earlier,” she said. 

Scientists like Lawrence Abrahamson, a senior research associate with SUNY’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, have heard reports that large swarms of red admirals have been spotted upstate in Buffalo and Rochester as well.

“When they drop in on an area, they drop in by the thousands,” Abrahamson explained. He says that during migration, the butterflies often bunch up when storm fronts hit, causing them to descend in swarms. Abrahamson  and others speculate that the offspring of butterflies that bred last fall may have survived the warm winter, thus adding to the current influx.

But luckily, unlike other types of insects and pests, butterflies like the red admirals are completely harmless, even when they’re out in droves.

“They don’t feed on any crops or food or shrubs or trees, it’s not an economic problem,” Gangloff-Kaufmann said.

So while scores of them are in town, New Yorkers can enjoy the spectacle before the red admirals continue on their journey and make their way north to Canada.


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Comments [6]

Cora Howlett from North Carolina

Need info where to buy boehmeria cylindrical (false nettle) host plants for the red admiral butterfly and possibly other host plants?

Apr. 12 2013 08:33 PM
Fran Close from Oakdale, NY (South shore of Long Island

It's wonderful to see these lovely visitors in my yard in Oakdale, NY. My neighbor bought two plants with beautiful purple flowers and the butterflies have fallen in love with them.

May. 08 2012 12:58 PM
Bernadette Puleo from Dix Hills, Long Island

It was certainly a butterfly dance on Sunday in the bright sun.

May. 08 2012 08:52 AM

My sun room screen was open for a while last Friday as I moved plants out. A swarm of at least 20 Red Admiral butterflies was attracted, probably because it was warm in there. It took me about an hour to net and release them one by one. There were three stragglers on Saturday and four more on Sunday. I think I've got them all. And I never thought to take a picture! Sorry!

May. 08 2012 07:42 AM
Storm Morales from Coram, NY

These little guys are beautiful and friendly. Theres a lot out here in Suffolk county, hovering in and out of shrubs and hanging in the like color building sidings. They'll even land on you in passing.

May. 07 2012 10:56 PM
Kelli McNamara from NYC

I saw many Red admiral butterflies during the Five Boro bike tour yesterday. Many people were talking about them as they were so plentiful.

May. 07 2012 07:35 PM

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