Mercifully the only people likely to be up in arms are the lepidopterist section of the BNP. The new arrivals are painted lady butterflies and the only resources they will devour are nectar and thistles. (I doubt a member of the Bastard Nazi Party could spell lepidopterist though although they might scream that they are “coming here and stealing our nectar”)
According to a recent article in the Guardian this year’s migration could be the biggest in years. Up to 18,000 were spotted sailing on the breeze across Scolt Head Island on the north Norfolk coast: 50 arriving every minute according to Natural England nature reserve staff.
The mass migration began about 10 days ago when large numbers were seen off Portland Bill in Dorset. Since then thousands of painted ladies have turned up everywhere, from central London to Dumfries and Galloway.
Painted ladies reach our shores every summer, but the last major migration was in 1996. This year, rumours of an impending invasion began circulating in late winter. Scientist, Constanti Stefanescu, reported seeing hundreds of thousands of them emerging in Morocco in mid-February after heavy winter rains in north Africa triggered the germination of food plants devoured by its caterpillars. Aided by favourable winds large numbers were seen in Spain during April. A few weeks later, they had reached France.
"We've had reasonable migrations before, but nothing this sudden," says Martin Warren, chief executive of Butterfly Conservation. "All the signs are it could be one of the biggest ever."
On the coast, all you may see is a flash of orange whizz past at head height. When they settle on garden flowers they are as striking as their less adventurous relatives, the red admiral and the small tortoiseshell. Certain weeds should be very afraid: painted lady caterpillars feast on thistles before emerging as a new generation of adult butterflies in August.
Come September, the painted ladies will be off again: the British-born generation begin an epic reverse trip back to North Africa.
The photo is one I took in our front garden a couple of days ago. I think it’s a painted lady rather than a native butterfly...