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Radar Signature Turns Out to Be Migrating Butterflies

5 Oct 2017, 12:42 pm

In what was thought to be birds picked up on the radar turns out to be butterflies!

The National Weather Service (NWS) in Boulder, Colorado, tweeted Tuesday an interesting radar signature in what they thought were birds.

After suggestions on the type of birds by enthusiasts, it wasn’t cranes, waterfowl, swallows or blackbirds after all.

Instead, the NWS says the real flying creatures picked up on the radar were butterflies!

And while the NWS says that insects rarely produce such a coherent radar signature, this was one of those rare times where migrating butterflies in high quantities explains it.

If you noticed the influx of butterflies over the last few months, you are not alone.

Painted lady butterflies make their migration to warmer climates typically from late summer into fall in search of their food source.

“You will see more or less butterflies migrating each year depending on the prior weather conditions (i.e. more rain > more plants > more caterpillars > more adult butterflies),” said Sarah Garrett, a Curatorial Lepidopterist at the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, Colorado.  “From what we have seen the last week it has been a productive summer!”

Favorable Temperatures Lead To Increase in Painted Lady Butterflies

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