Painted Lady Cynthia cardui , Kingston, May 2008

Painted Lady butterflies originate in North Africa and emigrate northwards as the population expands. Every 6 to 8 years or so, huge numbers reach Britain (e.g. 1995 and 2003) and 2009 looks set to be another "boom" year. In the intervening years (such as last year) they are virtually absent. Large numbers have started to arrive along the whole of the south coast and have rapidly moved northwards. The influx has already been reported in national newspapers, though some of the comments made about this naturally occurring phenomenon are highly inaccurate, for example it is alleged this is the result of global warming (which it most certainly is not). Nor are the butterflies "gigantic" as at least one newspaper stated.