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California rain encourages more than flowers—it is also luring millions of Painted Lady butterflies into Southern cities and deserts

Nicole Clausing  – March 8, 2019 | Updated March 12, 2019

Everyone knows what April showers bring, but what about a deluge in February and March? The answer is butterflies. Hundreds of thousands of Painted Lady butterflies, fluttering around over much of Southern California in recent days.

The insects aren’t strangers to the West—Painted Ladies are actually found all over the world—but the size of this year’s colorful crop is unusual. They’re coming north from Mexico in increased numbers this spring because the greater-than-average rainfall that California has absorbed in recent weeks has fueled a heavy wildflower season, and Painted Ladies particularly love plant nectar.

You don’t have to travel to wild parts of the state to see kaleidoscopes of butterflies. Residents of Los Angeles, San Diego, and Palm Springs have reported huge numbers even in downtown areas. The Coachella Valley seems to be attracting concentrations of them, which, combined with the wildflower bloom, makes for an absolute explosion of color in the normally arid area.

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If you’d like to see nature’s rainbow for yourself, better sooner than later. It’s hard to predict how long they will be around for, but experts say they will probably have dispersed northward and begun to die off by May. Painted Ladies reproduce quickly but each insect only lives in butterfly form for about two weeks. So, like the wildflowers, they’re a short-lived burst of color that it’s worth making plans to see.