'Record number' of painted lady butterflies spotted in South Tyneside in rare phenomenon

An ‘influx’ of painted lady butterflies has emerged in South Tyneside in a once in a decade phenomenon.

Thousands of the painted ladies, also known as Vanessa cardui, were spotted by at Marsden Old Quarry nature reserve.

According to experts, the butterflies only make a mass appearance in the UK around every 10 years.

Sightings of the species have been reported across the country over the last week, with good weather conditions and food sources leading to bigger numbers than ever before.

Painted lady butterfly by Laurence Younger

Wildlife enthusiast, Laurence Younger came across a cloud of painted ladies near his home in Marsden, and shared the photos on social media. He couldn’t believe how many had landed in South Tyneside.

“I saw some at Roker first and then I went up to Marsden and there were thousands of them. It was excellent to see,” said the 60-year-old.

He said the amount of butterflies was unusual and it's the most he's ever spotted in the borough.

“They say it happens every 10 years, but it’s the most I have ever seen during my lifetime,” he continued.

Painted ladies by Laurence Younger

“It’s very rare to see them in such numbers.”

The painted lady, known for its distinctive orange and black wings, migrates north from Northern Africa in the spring time, usually reaching mainland Europe and eventually the UK in May to June. The creatures can cover up to 100 miles a day, but with a life cycle that lasts five to eight weeks, it can take up to six generations to make the annual migration.

During the last ‘painted lady year’ in 2009, 11 million sightings were recorded across the UK.

Laurence, a keen wildlife photographer, birdwatcher and lifelong nature lover, says the good weather and favourable conditions has allowed the butterflies to thrive.

Painted ladies at Marsden Old Quarry by Laurence Younger

“It’s been warm and it hasn’t been too wet, so it’s ideal conditions for them,” he said.

“It’s quite a good year for butterflies, everything is favourable for them, which is great after the last few years have been so poor.”

Painted lady butterfly by Laurence Younger
Wildlife enthusiast, Laurence Younger