Lebanon's wettest winter in years paved the way for a dazzling spring filled with rare phenomena. This year, a massive number of migrating butterflies swarmed across the country, halting over to enjoy an exceptional array of seasonal wildflowers.
The Vanessa Cardui or “painted lady” butterflies – an orange and black variety speckled with white dots – are among the most common species worldwide.
Every spring, the colorful beauties make the lengthy trip to Europe from Africa, traveling up to 12,000 kilometers a year.
Lebanon's central location on the Mediterranean coast makes it a prime location and a pit stop for thousands of migrating creatures of the animal kingdom.
This time around, cold winds from eastern Europe and unusually temperate weather for this time of year have encouraged the butterflies to extend their stay in Lebanon as they migrate for the summer.
Before spreading across the entire country, the swarm's first arrivals were spotted over a month ago in south Lebanon.
As they journeyed across the nation, the pretty pollinators caused excitement among nature lovers and city-dwellers alike.
“It was beautiful seeing millions of butterflies, like confetti in the sky,” said Yasmina El-Amine, a researcher on climate change and environment at the American University of Beirut. “Everyone on campus enjoyed the beginning of spring with this migration.”
The sheer number of Vanessa Cardui butterflies has caused admiring bewilderment as millions were crossing mountains, fields, villages, and cities. This concerted passage even prompted agencies like Reuters and The National to report on the topic.
According to Magda Bou Dagher Kharrat, a professor in plant genetics at Lebanon's University of Saint Joseph, "The last time this migration happened in this way was back in 1917."
This time, the butterflies did not restrict themselves to wild areas and forests. They braved the urban landscape, charming the city residents with their arrival.
The butterflies, whose distinctive black, white and russet wings earned them the nickname of 'painted lady', could be seen in the northern villages of Mrouj and Zaarour, flitting across large meadows of wildflowers.
"What happened this year should be noted down for history," says Bou Dagher Kharrat.
It is worth mentioning that Lebanon receives many seasonal visitors and passers-by. Some of which, like the honey buzzards, face a particularly dangerous journey over the country as many Lebanese continue to hunt them despite nation-wide efforts to stop the practice.