Why so many butterflies are fluttering in Whitsundays
WHITSUNDAY residents are experiencing magical scenes when they venture outdoors as an abundance of stunning blue butterflies soar, float and crisscross their way through the region
Francesca d'Cruz, an acupuncturist at Cannonvale's Kissun Clinics, was one resident who was treated to the sight and she captured some footage as she was surrounded by blue tiger butterflies while out on a boat near Thomas Island.
"It was enlightening - I just felt blessed to see such a spectacular event. It was amazing," she said.
"We need to remember that we're very fortunate to be living in this place, in paradise, and we get to see such magnificent displays.
"It's the first time in my life I've experienced that. It was incredible - we were in awe."
Ms d'Cruz said she enjoyed sharing the vision with others - which so far has been shared 30 times on Facebook - because there was currently so much negative news and focus on coronavirus.
"And to be able to appreciate something as beautiful as this puts things into perspective," she said.
"Basically, it's Mother Nature in all her glory. I felt so small - it was especially humbling."
But why are the enchanting creatures in such large numbers and why now?
Dr Christine Lambkin, entomologist with the Queensland Museum, said we "quite often" have migrations of the blue tiger butterflies but the difference this year was that we had a late rainy season after an extended dry period, which led to an explosion in their numbers.
The butterflies don't migrate every year - only when there's been a "mass emergence".
"We've had many years where the conditions weren't right for them to develop like this. The last time it was like this was three to five years ago," she said.
This year, as the caterpillars hatched from their eggs they ate "everything they could get their hands on".
Because of the drought, there was also fewer flies and wasps that would eat the caterpillars.
The butterflies are not migrating in a particular direction, but out of their breeding zones, she said.
"They often fly out to sea and people will report that there's millions of them heading out to sea even though there's nothing for them out there.
"You're seeing the movement but it may not have a biological purpose and many are flying away from their breeding areas and food because that's what they do."
As the weather cools, the butterflies who haven't disappeared across the ocean will enter a 'resting' stage and will sit in quiet places along gullies.
"In North Queensland there'll be lots of butterflies just hanging in the trees along the creek beds."
Dr Lambkin said mostly the butterflies had one generation per year, with females breeding for a limited time during summer, but there was a possibility this season they could continue to breed.
"Are they thinking that they're going to get another generation in? Maybe they think it's going to be a warm winter," she said.
"We've still got the warmth so they've been able to develop and the plants are going crazy so they've got food."
She said other butterflies experiencing similar rises in numbers were lemon migrant, large grass-yellow and a few caper white butterflies.
"Just appreciate them because they are quite beautiful, but don't touch them as you can damage them," she said.
"In these days when we're all locked down, the butterflies are something amazing to see in your own garden. It's quite joyous actually.
"Just enjoy them while they're here."
Dr Lambkin said the numbers would decrease with the onset of winter and the butterflies moved into their "quiet stage".