Do all those white butterflies make it to Mozambique? Or die on the way?

Brown-veined butterflies have been spotted across the country.
Brown-veined butterflies have been spotted across the country.
Image: @clarencesdb via Twitter

In the past few days, social media users have been posting pictures of white butterflies migrating.

They have been spotted across Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State.

What are they?

Dave Swart, the owner of Butterfly Valley in Ramsgate, on the KZN south coast, told TimesLIVE the butterflies are called brown-veined whites (Belenois aurota) and they originate in the Kalahari and other arid regions of the Northern Cape.

The great migration

According to Swart, every year between December and January the butterflies gather in their millions and migrate in a north-easterly direction.

“During some years, they have a massive population explosion, where their numbers become so large that the larval stage of the butterfly consumes too much of the available food plant.

“This situation triggers a one-way trip in a north-easterly direction across SA,” he said.

Where do they go?

Depending on climatic conditions, such as rain and drought, their numbers differ every year and they head to various destinations, said Swart.

“Many will die before they reach the Indian Ocean, but some survivors have been seen from coastlines as far north as Mozambique, flying over the sea, where they, too, will perish,” he said.

Their beauty has dazzled Mzansi, judging by the social media posts.