I have worked all over the southwest during my nearly 50 years of experience. During that time I have worked for two state game and fish agencies and as an independent biological consultant – mostly doing sensitive species surveys and monitoring. Those work experiences have provided me with the opportunity to spend time in some interesting places.
The Clark Mountains, just into California from Nevada along I-15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, is one such interesting place. I spent time one spring doing desert tortoise monitoring along a gas pipeline through the Clarks. While I was there a huge migration of painted lady butterflies was going on. According to my late friend, colleague, and Curator of Lepidoptera at the University of Florida Natural History Museum, George Austin, such migrations only occur only periodically. About every 5 years or so there is a huge northward migration of painted ladys. Problem is, no one seems to know where the migration originates, why it occurs, or where it goes. I spent hours on a hillside surrounded by literally millions of butterflies as they floated, flapped, and flew by. They truly resembled autumn leaves, but they weren’t falling. Didn’t see a single tortoise.
I have recently watched a documentary on PBS about butterflies around the world. It seems that painted lady butterflies are ubiquitous. There is a huge migration of millions of them that originates in northern Europe and they fly all the way to Africa; across the Mediterranean. The return trip is done by multiple generations in stages, pretty much just like monarch butterflies in North America. I still don’t know what, where, why, or when on the migration of painted ladys that I witnessed.
My experience in the Clark Mountains has provided the location and situation for my novel, “Le Cochon Volant: The Flying Pig”.