A wet winter in Lebanon has encouraged more butterflies to migrate there than the country has seen in 100 years.
“The last time this migration happened was way back in 1917,” Magda Bou Dagher Kharrat, a plant genetics professor at St. Joseph University in Lebanon, told Reuters.
Vanessa cardui butterflies, also known as “painted ladies,” are among the most common species of butterflies worldwide. Painted ladies are named due to the white speckles that contrast their orange and black coloring.
“It was something really beautiful,” Rony Kharrat told Reuters.“People were stopping on the road to watch them…We have never seen anything like it before.”
Despite their numbers, these butterflies do not harm the agriculture in Lebanon, and are, in fact, welcomed as a signal of expanding biodiversity. “[The butterflies] also represent an increase in food material for birds who eat them, and by pollinating more flowers, they will increase biodiversity,” Nabil Nemer, a professor of entomology at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, told The National.
After experiencing more than 50 inches of rainfall since January, 15 more than the country’s average, scientists are wondering if climate change is to blame for the butterflies’ extended migration, according to The National.
“It was beautiful seeing millions of butterflies, like confetti in the sky,” Yasmina El Amine, a climate change researcher in Beirut, told The National. “Everyone on campus enjoyed the beginning of spring with this migration.”