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White butterflies in the Drakensberg
January 15, 2014
White butterflies have been flying in the Drakensberg. The spectacle is an annual event, but that the clouds of Belenois aurota, commonly known as brown veined white butterflies, do not always follow exactly the same route.
They start hatching along the entire coast from Cape Town towards Namibia, then migrate inland in a north-easterly direction. The initial batch of butterflies are joined by more and more along their migratory route.
The butterflies then head toward Mozambique before crossing the sea to Madagascar. As they go further north, some die and more join. Eventually, there are massive clouds of butterflies, reaching up to a kilometre into the air.
Along the route, the female butterflies laid eggs, which would begin the life cycle of the next generation.
The timing of the migration is dependant on weather conditions, but usually ran from late November to mid-February. The brown veined white butterflies are often joined by other butterflies of the same Pieridae family, which had shades of yellow or orange in their colouration.
The butterflies travelled from sunrise to dusk and need to replenish themselves with nectar every 20 minutes or risk dying from dehydration. They favour long grass and were particularly attracted to grass nectar.
The butterflies roost overnight, and it is possible to tell whether a butterfly was awake or asleep by looking at their feelers. If the feelers are touching, then they are sleeping.