Wave of butterflies lights up weather radar A painted lady butterfly flies near daisies in a garden in downtown Denver Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Wave of butterflies lights up weather radar
Lexile

A lacy, cloud-like pattern drifted across a Denver-area radar screen. It turned out to be a 70-mile-wide (110-kilometer) wave of butterflies. That's according to forecasters.

Paul Schlatter works for the National Weather Service. He said he first thought flocks of birds were making the pattern he saw on the radar Tuesday. But the cloud was headed northwest with the wind and migrating birds would be headed southbound in October.

He asked birdwatchers on social media what it might be and by Wednesday he had his answer. People reported seeing a loosely spaced net of painted lady butterflies drifting with the wind across the area.

Schlatter said the colors on the radar image are a result of the butterflies' shape and direction. The colors he saw were not their own colors.

Midwestern radar stations occasionally pick up butterflies.  But Schlatter believes it's a first for Denver.

An unusually large number of painted ladies are sometimes mistaken for monarch butterflies. They have descended on Colorado's Front Range in recent weeks. They feed on flowers, sometimes flying together in what seem like clouds.

Sarah Garrett is a lepidopterist at the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, Colorado. She said people from as far away as the Dakotas have called to report seeing the butterflies, whose population typically surges with plentiful flowers.

Research on the painted ladies in North America is limited. Scientists believe they migrate to the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico in the fall. In Europe, studies using radio tracking have shown they migrate south from Europe to Africa in the fall and return in the spring. Studies also show that monarch butterflies often use wind to their advantage and glide on currents for periods of time, Garrett said.

Filed Under:  
Assigned 78 times
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why doesn’t radar show color of butterflies?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (19)
  • David M-del
    10/11/2017 - 06:09 p.m.

    The radar didn't show the color of the butterflies because the butter were mistaken for monarch butterflies which have a different type of color to them.

  • EvanC-del
    10/11/2017 - 06:18 p.m.

    This was a very fascinating topic I read about but I'm not a huge fan of them. They kind of creep me out. The only thing I find interesting are the colors on it's wings.

  • GregoryM-del
    10/11/2017 - 07:46 p.m.

    Color on the radar image is a product of a butterflies shape and direction. This caused people to think that they were monarch butterflies instead of painted lady butterflies. The colors shown on the radar was not it's own. To identify them as painted lady butterfly lepidopterists needed to make a judgment based on their shape and direction. Radar does not have the technology to identify colors.

  • ChloeR-del
    10/11/2017 - 08:25 p.m.

    A radar doesn't show real pictures of objects. It shows an audio wave signal reflected by this object. That's why the radar in the story shows only the direction and the shape of the butterfly.

  • JadeR-del
    10/11/2017 - 08:26 p.m.

    The radar does not show the color of the butterflies and I know this because in the text Paul Schlatter who works for the national weather service said "... the colors on the radar image were a result of the butterflies shape and direction. The colors he saw were not their own colors." That is why the radar didn't show the color of the butterflies.

  • AkshayB-del
    10/11/2017 - 08:40 p.m.

    The radar doesn't show the color of the butterflies because a unusually large number of painted ladies are sometimes mistaken for monarch butterflies which have descended on Colorado's Front Range in recent weeks. They feed on flowers, sometimes flying together in what seem like clouds. The colors seen on the radar were not their own colors then.

  • RushB-del
    10/11/2017 - 09:58 p.m.

    Its interesting to how painted lady butterflies can look like they are a different color,its also cool to see how butterflies have their own migrating pattern

  • GabriellaJ-del
    10/12/2017 - 04:17 p.m.

    this article is about butterflies flying south in a huge group. Many suspected that they were birds but they were indeed butterflies.????

  • PedroM-del1
    10/12/2017 - 04:36 p.m.

    The radar doesn't show the color of butterflies because the butterflies are on the radar only due to the large mass of them. Each butterflies has heat in its body so 7 miles of butterflies makes a lot of heat, espicially close together

  • WilliamF-del
    10/12/2017 - 04:45 p.m.

    The radar doesn't show the actual color of the butterfly because Paul from the national weather service explains that the color was there because of the shape and the direction.

Take the Quiz Leave a comment
ADVERTISEMENT